Author: Sabine Siebold
China’s telecoms giant Huawei has accused the USA of having protectionist motives for describing the corporation as a security risk.
"Of course the accusations are being used as a trade weapon," Huawei’s head of cyber-security, John Suffolk, told Reuters on Friday evening on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference. The Chinese corporation, however, has time on its side. “We will have patience with the USA, and also with other countries,” Suffolk says.
When India entered the call centre business 20 years ago there were also many fears. “That will resolve itself, in time.” One of Huawei’s major competitors is the American corporation Cisco, the world’s largest network equipment provider.
A debate about the security of Huawei products flared up recently in the USA. The corporation was accused of being too close to the Chinese government. There was speculation that Huawei could spy out critical information through the wireless communications networks the company was installing. An enquiry by the US government, however, delivered no clear evidence of this, government sources say.
According to Suffolk the debate about security has not damaged Huawei. “We have not lost any customers and business is doing well,” the manager says. “The eventual balance is more or less neutral.” In fact, the discussion had turned out to be to the corporation’s advantage. “In a perverse way, the debate opened doors – before that no-one was interested in us,” Suffolk explains. Huawei allowed interested parties access to the factories and let them talk to development engineers. People learned from that – and at the same time the corporation learned from their questions and misgivings.
One example of this is the German hacker and cyber-expert Felix Lindner. In October he revealed numerous weak points in Huawei’s distribution systems. Lindner said at the time that the cause was apparently not the intention of spying, but careless programming and poor working practices.
"The first thing he established was that there was nowhere on our website where you could report a weak point,” says Suffolk. The corporation has fixed this. “Then he had detected some mistakes and weak points; that helped us a great deal and we have resolved these problems.”
Of course such a scandal was not pleasant. But such criticism from outside should not be ignored. “We sent engineers to Felix who listened to him and learned from him,” Suffolk reported.