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Chinese Smartphone Brands Oppo, ZTE And Huawei Facing Torrid Future Over 5G Security Concerns

Chinese smartphone brands Oppo, Huawei and ZTE are facing a torrid future with their smartphones being labelled as devices that in the future could be used for State sponsored spying by the Chinese government.

Already carriers are pulling out of deals to sell Chinese branded smartphones, as all three Chinese brands get set to use next weeks Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to launch new devices.

Of particular concern, is networking Company Huawei who are currently vying to build new 5G communication networks for several carriers including Optus and Vodafone in Australia.

A 2012 U.S. congressional report labelled Huawei a national-security threat, saying its equipment could allow China to spy or disable telecommunications networks. Smaller U.S. carriers use Huawei gear, but the report made it politically difficult for bigger ones, such as AT&T Inc., to do so.

According to mobile security firm Kryptowire, a particularly nasty brand of Android software did just that recently, transmitting text, data, call, location, and app data to a Chinese server every 72 hours, the software was found on ZTE, Oppo and Huawei smartphones.

Researchers began to raise red flags in September 2017, when it was discovered the data mining tool in question — called Adups — had been living inside hundreds of millions of devices produced by Chinese smartphone manufacturers.

In Australia, both Optus and Vodafone have partnered with Huawei for their new 5G networks and this is now causing concerns for Australia security agencies.

On Friday, USA National Security Agency director Mike Rogers and US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen warned Australian Government officials in face to face meetings, of the dangers that Governments facing investing in Chinese made network infrastructure as well Chinese made smartphones.

In Australia Oppo management has not returned our calls concerning their smartphones.

In Australia ASIO and our security agencies have raised concerns about Huawei’s push to supply equipment to carriers for their new 5G mobile phone.

In the USA on Friday Minister Malcolm Turnbull was briefed on US concerns about Chinese involvement in 5G networks, also discussed in round table meetings with US security agencies was claims by US official’s that Beijing’s cyber espionage was among the “top two” risks on the US-Australia cyber security agenda.

“When you control telco networks, you can control everything,” said one official involved in the discussions.

In a statement, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, referenced the issue saying the US and Australia had discussed partnering on cyber-security issues including “ongoing work to mitigate risks” in the supply chain.

Huawei was banned from tendering on the National Broadband Network in March 2012 – a move opposed by then communications spokesman Mr Turn
bull – but has since partnered with both Optus and Vodafone on mobile phone networks.

In the six years since, Beijing has become more assertive and several cases of Chinese spying using Chinese made smartphone devices have been revealed.

Huawei took a major step towards supplying equipment for Australia’s new 5G networks in December, when it was included in a Department of Communications working group, along with other suppliers and carriers, assembled to aid the roll-out of the new technology.

Huawei is already testing its 5G technology with Optus and is seen as having a technological and cost advantage over traditional rivals Ericsson and Nokia.
In a statement Optus said it would always work with the government on national security issues but “saw no need for the type of Government intervention that is reportedly being considered in other jurisdictions”.

Some intelligence officials also fear Huawei’s equipment might have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited to remotely control or disable the gear.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” said Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, at a Senate committee hearing earlier this month. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced separate bills to bar the U.S. government and its contractors from using Huawei gear.

Vodafone said it took the “security of its customers and its systems very seriously”.

In the USA both Verizon and AT&T have pulled out of deals to sell Huawei’s newest mobile handset, the Mate 10 Pro, due to political pressure.

It’s not known whether carriers in Australia will be pressured to stop selling Chinese branded smartphones.

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