Many people in India are unaware about Huawei and its large number of products that are sold here. These range from simple wireless modems to advanced networking equipment utilized by industries and other hardware manufacturers. Most of the USB dongles that are sold in the country also come from the Chinese brand Huawei, or its many subsidiaries. So their presence in the country is not negligible.
It has recently come to light that the United States House of Representatives Intelligence Committee has called for a ban of all Huawei products in the US market. Huawei is not the only Chinese company that could be banned. ZTE is another brand that could suffer the same fate. The US Government fears that hardware manufactured by these companies contains a backdoor entry for the Chinese Government and such access could be misused for spying and cyberattacks. Whether these allegations are true or not remains to be seen.
The ongoing investigation by US Intelligence
The companies are further accused of hindering investigations and withholding information as well. Both the organizations strongly deny links to the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army. However, authorities remain convinced that Huawei and ZTE are involved in cyberespionage for the Chinese Government all around the world.
Huawei (pronounced ‘wah‘-‘wey‘) has also been accused of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft by Cisco in the past. Recently, Australia blocked the company from participating in a multi-billion dollar deal to supply equipment for a national broadband network. In May 2010, India also took a drastic step and controversially banned telecommunications firms that imported Chinese networking equipment.
Trouble with ZTE began in 2010 when Reuters reported that the company funneled software from Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco to Iran for the purpose of a nation-wide surveillance system. This led to severed ties with the company and the lingering suspicion that its products serve as a backdoor for the Chinese Government.
The potential repercussions for India
If the ban against Huawei and ZTE are implemented, the Indian IT world will need to implement suitable measures as well. Huawei hardware (120 million units worldwide in 2010) includes USB modems, wireless modems, fixed wireless terminals, set-top boxes, mobile handsets and video products. ZTE also manufactures mobile handsets, tablets and mobile hotspots.
The reach of Chinese hardware in India is substantial and if the allegations against these companies turn out to be true, the damage could already be done. The potential for cyberattacks through such hardware is persistent, so active systems need several layers of the best system protection software available. Moreover, if the ban is implemented it could influence other nations and cause a shortage of equipment worldwide. A lot of hardware would also need to be replaced, and this would increase costs proportionally. We will update our readers with further developments about this case as and when they arise.