Equipment made by China’s two leading telecom companies and used in many global communication networks has unusual and unexplained features which could expose them to cyberattack, including by Chinese intelligence agencies, congressional leaders said Thursday.
“Huawei and ZTE provide a wealth of opportunities for Chinese intelligence agencies to insert malicious hardware or software implants into critical telecommunications components and systems,” said Rep. Michael Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
He spoke at a committee hearing where executives from the two firms, testifying through translators, denied the preliminary findings of a committee investigation that their equipment was designed to allow Chinese cyberspies and cyberwarriors access to the telecommunications networks of the countries where the software is installed.
Zhu Jinyun, ZTE senior vice president for North America and Europe, and Charles Ding, Huawei, corporate senior vice president, insisted that their companies were independent commercial enterprises with no links to the communist Chinese government.
Mr. Zhu added that all ZTE products meet international security standards. He also said ZTE has appointed an American citizen to be an independent director and member of its board to ensure transparency.
“What they have been calling ‘backdoors’ are actually bugs in the software,” he said.
Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the senior committee Democrat, noted that the companies could be required under Chinese law to cooperate with requests from Chinese government agencies to use their systems for malicious purposes.
“The eyes of the world are upon us,” he said.