U.S. intel agencies warn against using Chinese brand smartphones

By Ray Downs  |  Feb. 14, 2018 at 9:59 PM
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Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. intelligence officials advised Americans on Wednesday not to use smartphones made by Chinese companies Huawei or ZTE.

Although American brands like Apple manufacture their smartphones in China, U.S. intelligence officials from the NSA, FBI and CIA said they believe smartphones sold by Chinese-based companies pose a security risk.

"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Wray said smartphones and other communication technology could be compromised "to gain positions of power inside our telecommunication networks that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure."

Wray also said the phones could be used to "maliciously modify or steal information" and "to conduct undetected espionage."

Both Huawei and ZTE pushed back against the accusations that their products posed a national security risk to the United States.

"Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities," a spokesperson for Huawei said in a statement, according to CNN.

ZTE said some of its product components are manufactured in the United States.

"As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," the company said.

At one point during the Senate Intelligence Committee panel, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked the heads of the FBI, NSA and CIA to raise their hands if they would recommend Americans use products by Huawei or ZTE. Nobody raised their hands.

Wray's warning comes only days after Cotton introduced a bill that would prohibit U.S. government agencies from contracting with Huawei or ZTE.

"Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it's more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," Cotton said in a statement.

Although the FBI, NSA and CIA warned against the use of phones made by Chinese companies, Wikileaks revealed last year that U.S. intelligence agencies have the capability to hack into Google and Apple phones, as well as laptops and televisions.

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