HUAWEI IN CYBERATTACK ON NSA
Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies sought to gain access to National Security Agency computer networks this year in a failed cyberespionage attack, U.S. officials said.
The company, which the U.S. government has linked to China’s military, sought to penetrate NSA networks through a U.S. defense contractor, officials familiar with intelligence reports said of the attempted cyberattack.
The attempted network penetration was discussed in mid-August during a meeting of an interagency security group called G-FIRST, for Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams.
The identity of the defense contractor could not be learned.
A Department of Homeland Security official declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing defense contractor issues. He referred questions to the Pentagon. The Homeland Security Department coordinates the G-FIRST group.
NSA spokesman Mike Halbig said: “We have nothing for you on this allegation.”
“While Huawei is challenged to respond to The Washington Times’ vague inquiry, the suggestion that a globally-proven and trusted $40 billion vender of commercial telecommunications gear would risk its very existence by attempting, in some unspecified fashion, to somehow ‘access’ a government network through some unidentified third party, would seem nothing short of absurd,” Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer told Inside the Ring in a statement.
The National Security Agency is the government’s premier cyberwarfare and cyberintelligence-gathering agency, and analysts say it is one of the highest priority targets for China’s aggressive cyberespionage efforts.
The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Chinese military stated in 2010 that Huawei and two other Chinese telecommunications companies “maintain close ties to the [People’s Liberation Army] and collaborate on R&D.”
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence warned in a 2012 report that the U.S. government and private U.S. companies should not use Huawei equipment because of cyberespionage concerns.
Disclosure of the Huawei cyberpenetration attempt follows the release of NSA documents leaked by renegade contractor Edward Snowden revealing that the agency conducted cyberespionage operations against Huawei.
Briefing slides labeled “top-secret” and made public in March showed that the NSA has been able to exploit weaknesses in Huawei computer equipment to spy on so-called hard-target countries, including China, Pakistan and Iran.
“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products — we also want to ensure that we retain access to these communication lines, etc.,” one NSA slide states.
The slide also noted that Huawei’s widespread infrastructure “will provide the PRC with [signals intelligence] capabilities and enable them to perform denial of service type attacks.”
U.S. officials also said the Commerce Department is investigating accusations that Huawei provided U.S.origin modems, routers and other network equipment to Cuba in violation of U.S. sanctions on the communist-ruled island state. and other security-related exchanges with China a high priority and a centerpiece of Pentagon foreign activities.
But a forthcoming report by the congressional U.S.China Economic and Security Commission reveals that security relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated amid dangerous Chinese encounters at sea and air with U.S. ships and surveillance aircraft.
“With a few exceptions, the U.S.-China security relationship deteriorated in 2014,” the late draft of the annual commission report states. “The rhetoric of a ‘new type of major-country relationship’ embraced by both countries in 2013, has not had a warming effect on bilateral ties and mutual suspicion and distrust persist.”
The problem is both countries’ conflicting visions for Asia. While the United States seeks a stable and prosperous region, China wants to push out the United States and set up a “security architecture” led by China with the United States playing a limited role.
Specifically, the report linked declining ties to China’s “destabilizing, unilateral, and coercive actions in the South and East China Seas, and China’s willingness to engage the United States in confrontational and dangerous air and maritime encounters.”
Those encounters included the near collision in the South China Sea in December of a Chinese amphibious