The Chinese government has demanded an explanation from Washington regarding a report that the US National Security Agency (NSA) infiltrated Huawei’s servers in 2010 with a view to verifying any link between the vendor and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, tracking and gaining information on the workings of Huawei’s technology. Reuters writes that Hong Lei, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, commented at a regular briefing that China was ‘seriously concerned’ about the spying allegations, which were published by the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden. According to the report, the NSA operation, codenamed ‘Shotgiant’, secured access to Huawei’s servers in its headquarters in Shenzhen and gained information about the workings of the telecom giant’s routers and digital switches. NSA documents were quoted as saying: ‘Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products…[to] gain access to networks of interest.’ The operation reportedly also sought to conduct surveillance and make preparations for a future cyber attack, with China’s political leadership – including former president Hu Jintao – and the trade and foreign ministries the main targets.
Remarking on the accusations, William Plummer, a senior Huawei executive said that the company was not aware that it had been targeted by the US. The official was quick to point out the similarity between the NSA’s alleged hacking and the accusations levelled against Huawei in 2011 that the vendor’s equipment was being used to hack into sensitive networks in the US: ‘The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us.’ Plummer went on, calling for the US government to rescind its claims that Huawei has ties to Beijing and the Chinese armed forces, allegations which have hampered the group’s operations in the US and worldwide: ‘If such espionage has been truly conducted then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government, and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation.’