Chinese technology behemoth Huawei is being investigated over concerns cell tower equipment from the company maybe transmitting sensitive data back to China.
For years, the telecom giant, which allegedly has close ties with the Chinese military, has been in the crosshairs of the western governments. The US and its allies have virtually blocked Huawei from their next-generation wireless networks, while its revenue plummeted globally in the recent years as all regions except China saw dwindling sales of its smartphones and telecom gear.
Capturing Sensitive Information
According to the latest reports, the US authorities are concerned that cellphone towers in the country that have Huawei gear maybe capturing sensitive information from military bases and missile silos and sending these to China.
Reuters exclusively reported, citing two sources, that the Biden administration believes Huawei is in a position to gather key data on the bases, including details on military drills.
The probe was opened by the Commerce Department more than a year earlier, but was under the wraps, the report said. As part of the probe, the government agency subpoenaed Huawei in April 2021, the report adds.
In one specific instance of security scare, Nebraska's telecoms regulator highlighted the risk posed cell towers of mobile carrier Viaero near intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos in the state.
Viaero, which offers telephone and wireless broadband services to 110,000 customers, is known to have been using equipment manufactured by Huawei.
What Will Happen?
According to the report, If the Commerce Department concludes that there is threat to national security from the Huawei equipment, "it could go beyond existing restrictions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)."
The report further adds: "Using broad new powers created by the Trump administration, the agency could ban all U.S. transactions with Huawei, demanding U.S. telecoms carriers that still rely on its gear quickly remove it, or face fines or other penalties."
Meanwhile, Huawei hit out against the US move. "The U.S. government abuses the concept of national security and state power to go all out to suppress Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies without providing any solid proof that they constitute a security threat to the U.S. and other countries."
Responding to Reuters, the US authorities said they would not "confirm or deny ongoing investigations." The commerce department said it is committed to protecting US persons' safety and security against malign information collection.
For several years, Huawei has faced intense scrutiny in the US. In 2020, FBI said there was a strong possibility that the telecom company would hand over sensitive information to Beijing.
"If Chinese companies like Huawei are given unfettered access to our telecommunications infrastructure, they could collect any of your information that traverses their devices or networks ... Worse still: They'd have no choice but to hand it over to the Chinese government, if asked," FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in 2020.