Huawei is the second largest producer of smartphones in the world. In recent months, the US Government accused the company of including malware and spyware on their phones that enabled them to collect information from the phone and the area around it. In other words, it is a tool for espionage and cyber attacks.
In 2014, the US Government banned Huawei from bidding on any federal agency contracts. Early in 2018, The Verge reported that six US intelligence agency chiefs testified before Congress about the threat the phones posed and the dangers of allowing them to operate inside US communication networks. There was also talk of creating legislation prohibiting US Government employees from using the phones.
Why the worry over the company and its various subsidiaries? The primary reason seems to be the fact that Huawei was founded by an engineer who served in the Peoples Liberation Army and that the company was apparently operating as an arm of the Chinese Government. Having a potentially hostile government influencing the operations of a technology company like Huawei was deemed an unacceptable risk. If their products became widely used inside US communication networks, the potential for them to be weaponized and attack the networks was an unacceptable national security risk.
According to an article in The Hacker News, the US Government has taken things a step further. President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order that bans US companies from doing business with the Chinese company or any of its 68 subsidiaries without approval from the US Government. When that Order was issued, several large US high tech companies suspended business relationships with Huawei.
Perhaps the most notable in terms of impact on Huawei is Google. They have revoked all rights to the use of their Android OS and access to other services like the Google Play Store. The move does not mean that the phones of existing users will stop working. It means that they will not receive any future system upgrades. As we have noted in previous blog posts, keeping your OS updated is a fundamental step that cannot be neglected to protect against cyber attacks.
Other US firms that have ceased doing business with Huawei include Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Intel. The Order profoundly impacts the ability of Huawei to market its phones and those of its subsidiary, ZTE, to the US market.
Huawei remains defiant, saying they will not allow the move to “crush their company.” But it cannot bode well for sales revenues and growth. The announcement apparently was not a total surprise to the company as they have been developing their own OS in recent months. Concerning the loss of access to chips from the US companies, we suspect there are plenty of options to choose from in China and elsewhere.
Protecting the infrastructure and citizens of the country is a significant part of what governments around the world do. It is expected. We, as individuals, cannot rely solely on our governments for the protection of our personal information and identities. We need to take steps to limit the chances that a bad actor will steal our data and use it to our disadvantage.
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