Privacy concerned individuals will not be shocked in the least to discover that the United States government has made significant headway in proving and discovering the security flaws and lack of trust with Huawei’s devices and technology. The full scope of information suggests that it was only a matter of time before this issue became more pressing, especially since the Trump administration has been desperately trying to remove all Huawei equipment from their networks.
What is The Proof?
The most curious thing about the exact proof uncovered by the government is that we don’t know what it is, and we likely never will. The United States intelligence community is deliberately withholding their findings to the public, likely fearing that exposing this backdoor and how it works may encourage hackers or data thieves to reverse engineer or recreate Huawei’s techniques for nefarious purposes.
What we do know for sure is that the United States government is providing this proof and all relevant information to the heads of allied countries, like the United Kingdom and Germany. The proof is likely to remain under lock and key, and the governments who have been presented with the proof seem to be treating it with an identical level of confidentiality.
How Long Have We Known?
We have known that Huawei was not safe for years. The government claims to have had suspicions based on findings since 2009, when 4G equipment first became widely available to consumers. Security researchers have been warning about Huawei for just as long, if not longer.
Despite the fact that suspicion has always existed, the problem has not been handled in any concrete or official way. Huawei phones are still available for purchase in the United States, although most carriers do not offer them in store. Instead, people must purchase unlocked Huawei phones elsewhere. The US government has made efforts to ban the use of Huawei equipment in any projects funded with FCC cash, but Huawei’s phones are still technically on the market.
Since Huawei offers phones with advanced features at extraordinarily competitive features, many uneducated consumers continue to purchase and use their devices. People see a 128 GB smartphone with 4 gigs of RAM and a 32 MP selfie camera for under $300 and their desire for a cheap phone with good specs overrides their desire to research the reputation of its manufacturer.
The Legality of Backdoors
It’s not unusual for telecom companies and device manufacturers to allow backdoors or make special exceptions for law enforcement. In fact, it’s a requirement. The government wants to option to access devices for legal purposes, such as solving crimes or tracking fugitives or missing people who may be in danger. While this requirement may exist for a seemingly noble purpose, it’s still problematic in and of itself. The requirement includes language that states that the manufacturer of the phone is not allowed to access this information without special formal consent.
What Huawei is thought to be doing is outside of this legal requirement. The ability to access this information is supposed to be limited to law enforcement. Huawei has made it possible for themselves to access this information without the knowledge or consent of the individuals who use its devices. Huawei has violated this part of the law, and the consumers using their phones are entirely unaware that Huawei has access to everything that they do, always.
Huawei is a Surveillance Company
The reason that this shouldn’t even be vaguely surprising is the nature of Huawei. The headline should read “professional spying company spies on people.” Huawei is one of the largest manufacturers of surveillance technology in the world. They provide China with nearly all of the software and equipment they use for “remote policing”, and they’re responsible for almost all exports of that same technology. It is literally their business to spy on people.
Huawei is denying any wrongdoing, hinging on the fact that the government will not release the concrete proof it claims to have discovered. Huawei will likely continue to deny any wrongdoing in the matter. Given the context of all relevant information, it’s up to consumers to decide who they want to believe. It is unlikely that the government will release the information they’ve discovered due to the potential security risks it may pose to do so, leaving the present situation at a substantial standstill.
What to Do if You Use a Huawei Device
Any privacy or security expert is likely to suggest that people who currently use Huawei devices should immediately wipe them and switch to a new smartphone. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Huawei claims there has been nothing nefarious on their end, but given the full scope of the situation, the wisest move is to err on the side of caution and discontinue use of any device that is currently under scrutiny for such a glaring and problematic flaw.