Are ZTE or Huawei Phones Security Risks?
If you’re interested in getting a Chinese brand smartphone, the popular belief is they could be a danger to the general public.
ZTE and Huawei may appear to be regular Android phones on the surface, but the heads of six U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI have warned against using these devices. Because they originate from China, there are rumors that these phones are being used for espionage purposes and may not be as secure as U.S.-brand phones.
While there’s no concrete evidence backing these claims, a bill that bans the ownership of Huawei and ZTEA phones is being introduced by government officials with the intention of ‘protecting” the nation’s safety.
A Decade of Backlash in the U.S.
Back in 2008 and 2010, the U.S. government shut down bills that would have allowed Huawei to acquire U.S. telecommunications companies to further their business. Then, in 2012, an investigation conducted by the House Intelligence Committee found that Huawei and ZTE posed a threat to the national security of the U.S. government and stateside companies.
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, co-introduced the aforementioned bill and held a panel where he asked U.S. government and law enforcement leaders about the perils of purchasing from Chinese manufacturers. FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed concern over allowing companies from foreign governments gaining positions of power in U.S. telecommunications networks, opening the door for these companies to modify or steal information.
Chinese Companies Seek to Expand in the U.S.
Huawei and ZTE have faced further resistance attempting to increase their shares of the U.S. smartphone market, including backlash from AT&T due to these claims. The carrier unexpectedly canceled its plans to roll out the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone. Verizon followed suit, saying it wouldn’t sell any Huawei phones.
The two carriers may not sell smartphones from these companies but they still sell low-end ZTE phones. However, U.S. officials are still concerned as unlocked smartphones from Huawei and ZTE can be found at any major U.S. retailer.
Should I Be Worried?
Huawei responded to these claims by noting they aware that several U.S. government entities are attempting to inhibit them from entering the U.S. market. The company says it poses no threat than any ICT vendor and its devices are trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide.
While there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that these phones are being used for espionage or if it’s much ado about nothing, most security concerns from using ZTE and Huawei stems more from potentially compromised apps or malware than anything else.