NSA hacked into servers of Huawei Technologies, a Chinese network manufacturer, and collected information to plant ‘backdoors’ on their equipment, according to latest media reports based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

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NSA, however, declined to comment on the company specifically but in an email statement to the IDG news service, the agency said:

  • NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against—and only against—valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

The US, for many years, alleged the telecommunications giant, Huawei, to be a security threat, which could implant backdoors in its equipment to facilitate stealing of corporate and government secrets.

The US contended that China’s People Liberation Army in collusion with the manufacturers and hackers have been involved in snooping of the US companies and government agencies. On grounds of suspicion, the US government restricted Huawei’s effort to expand its business in the country.

However, it turns out that the NSA was indeed doing spying all along.

According to the documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the New York Times, NSA succeeded in penetrating servers at the Huawei headquarters in Shenzen, China.

Shotgiant, as the operation was named, aimed at establishing the long suspected links between the PLA and Huawei. The operation could not establish any link between the two though.

However, it obtained information about the working of its giant routers and complex digital switches and planted backdoors on the Huawei equipment so that it could conduct surveillance if needed through their smartphones and computer networks, which is distributed across the globe.

  • Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” the agency document said. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” it added.

Although the operation started in 2011, NSA’s covert operation including monitoring email communications of Huawei executives started way back in 2007, reports the English daily.

Caught in the loop, the NSA officials were seen distinguishing their spying activities from that of China saying that China spied to gain commercial advantage over the US.

  • We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” the agency declared through an . They added, “It is important to note the overlay of law, regulation, policy, procedure, technical safeguards, training, culture, and ethos in the use of such tools; all of these things govern how NSA deploys various foreign intelligence techniques to help defend the nation.”

Der Spiegel, earlier in December, 2013, did mention how NSA intercepts deliveries of new software equipment enroute to plant spyware through its Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which specializes in infiltrating computers. 

Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman at Huawei, said:

  • We can confirm that we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any Government, or their agencies.”

But, the US based Huawei executive, William Plummer, reacted to the snooping revelation, “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.”

Its global cyber security officer, John Suffolk, told Reuters , “If the actions in the report are true, Huawei condemns such activities that invaded and infiltrated into our internal corporate network and monitored our communications.” 

Huawei is the third-largest vendor of smartphones in the word, besides selling the networking equipment.


Pushpa Mishra

Pushpa is a Dubai based scientific academic editor who worked for Reuters' Zawya business magazine and at the same time a passionate writer for HackRead. From the very first day she has been a blessing for team Hackread. Thanks to her dedication and enthusiasm.