Listening In: Huawei Forced out of Countries’ 5G Networks over Fears of Espionage

What’s going on here?

Chinese electronics company Huawei faces the risk of being forced out of numerous countries’ 5G infrastructure. Countries have started to fear that the Chinese Government is using it for espionage.

What does this mean?

Back in February 2018, 6 heads of US organisations warned Americans not to use products from Huawei (the Chinese telecommunications and electronics giant). The fear was that Huawei’s equipment was being used by the Chinese Government to spy on the device users. This fear was so strong that the US consequently banned Huawei phones from being sold. This forceful move sparked concern in other countries too, with Australia, Germany and other territories banning Huawei from their 5G networks. 5G is the next generation of mobile internet connectivity. It is set to replace 4G and is speculated to be 20 times faster.

In addition to this, Huawei has also been sued for financial fraud and intellectual property theft. The claims of fraud allege that Huawei tried to avoid US sanctions against Iran by misrepresenting their relationship with banks and officials. With regards to the IP issue, Huawei has been accused of stealing intellectual property from T-Mobile after violating certain confidentiality agreements.

What’s the big picture effect?

As the world is increasingly dependent on tech, the abuse of technology by governments is a terrifying thought. However, it is necessary to ask whether this really is a legitimate threat. Some sceptics argue that this is an attempt by the US to maintain its technological lead over China. It has been claimed that this move is potentially a result of President Trump’s “America First” policy that prioritises the United States’ interests. If Chinese companies dominate the 5G market, this would have a detrimental effect on US companies that are currently dominating the internet connectivity market. This argument is supported by the fact that spyware (the hacking software that spies on users) is relatively easy to detect. Therefore, if spyware was present in Huawei products, it should be possible for security experts to identify it and hold the company accountable.

These questions are merely speculative and cannot be definitively answered until we know more facts. However, whether or not the claims are true, this is still damaging for Huawei. But the company is fighting back. On March 1st, they pled not guilty to the fraud charges by the US. This was then followed by Huawei themselves filing a lawsuit (backed by the Chinese government) against the US government over the product ban. Huawei claims that it has been unlawfully singled out for punishment without trial.

As this story raises political, economic and legal factors, it will be important to see how it all unfolds.

Report written by Kaush K.

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