Huawei accused of attempting to install ‘back door’ in law enforcement system

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Huawei has been accused of pressuring the US contractor Business Efficiency Solutions (BES) to give it a “back door” into a sensitive law-enforcement project in Pakistan.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported over the weekend that BES said it was required to set up a system in China that gave it access to data used in Pakistan’s Punjab Safe Cities Authority, which included sensitive information about citizens and government officials.

In an interview, the chief operating officer of the Authority, Muhammad Kamran Khan, said they were currently investigating the claims after placing a pre-emptive security check on Huawei. He admitted that so far there has been no evidence of stolen data.

In response, a Huawei spokeswoman said: “Huawei respects the intellectual property of others and there is no evidence Huawei ever implanted any back door in our products.”

The allegations emerged as part of a lawsuit which alleged that the Chinese firm’s back door was located in a database that consolidated sensitive information including national ID card records, foreigner registrations, tax records and criminal records for law enforcement.

BES claims that Huawei later demanded it install an identical system in the Chinese city Suzhou that would give Huawei direct access to the data being gathered in Pakistan.

Concern has been growing in the US and the EU over the Chinese firm’s increasing involvement in communications infrastructure in recent years, especially around the creation of 5G networks.

It has faced a number of accusations that the Chinese State could use its technology to spy on communications in Western nations, although no 'smoking gun' evidence has been uncovered thus far.

Nevertheless, the US imposed heavy restrictions on the firm in 2019 that hampered its smartphone business in the West as well as drastically reducing the use of its technology in burgeoning 5G networks.

Huawei shipped 33m smartphones globally in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 41 per cent year-on-year decline, making it the sixth-largest vendor in the world.

The reason for the precipitous fall was that the sanctions prevented it from working with other US technology firms such as Google, which makes the Android operating system that formerly ran on all its smartphones, and silicon vendors such as Qualcomm who provide chips for the devices. An exception was later approved for Qualcomm to sell its 4G chips to Huawei.

In the UK, Huawei was once one of the primary providers of 5G infrastructure, but the sanctions led to a ban its technology from the networks. In January 2020, it was given the option of playing a limited role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure, although this was later rolled back with networks told to remove all traces of the firm’s tech by 2027 at the latest.

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