Huawei Technologies and its 5G network construction work around the world have created concern in many quarters.  The chief cause for this con cern is the perception that Huawei networks have a unique potential for exploitation by Chinese intelligence services.   

A Wapack Labs review to determine the scale of this problem showed that Huawei is in fact involved in 5G infrastructure development in many countries.  Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and Canada have been using Huawei equipment to set up their 5G networks.  Huawei has been involved in 5G trials and test beds in Estonia, Italy, Norway, Romania, UK, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Thailand, in some cases since 2017.  Huawei also has contracts for future 5G work with Hungary, Russia, Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

However, Huawei’s fielding of 5G networks is not the key component of their worldwide presence.  Huawei claims to have already provided network support to more than 170 countries.  This initial survey did not catalogue their work in all countries, but existing Huawei equipment and construction contracts were identified in 70 countries, including 23 in Europe and 26 in Asia.   

Some Huawei products being marketed worldwide raise particular concern.  Huawei claims to have sold its “Smart City Solution” to 40 countries.  This integrated city management system puts all city data and Internet-of-Things systems under one command center.  This includes a unified and extensive video surveillance system supported by AI for facial recognition.

In addition, the Huawei subsidiary Huawei Marine has been laying submarine communications cable for the past ten years and equipping these networks with Huawei switches and controllers.  Huawei claims that its cable systems are deployed in 68 countries.

Several countries, especially in Europe, are now rethinking their relationships with Huawei.  Still, Huawei equipment is already installed in so many countries, potential Chinese exploitation is indeed a worldwide problem.

For the full comprehensive report: IR-19-063-001 Should We Worry About Huawei_FINAL.pdf

None of the Huawei operations enumerated in our report indicate that Huawei is preparing a worldwide intelligence collection network.  For this report, the technical vulnerability of Huawei equipment to exploitation was not explored.  Likewise, no attempt was made to define the nature of the current relationship between Huawei and Chinese intelligence services.  However, based on the character of the Chinese government now, in the era of Xi Jinping, it seems reasonable to assume that government attempts to use Huawei networks out in the world for exploitation and information collection could not be resisted or thwarted by Huawei as a company. 

Huawei’s claims of being just another giant telecoms equipment manufacturer may be genuine, but that is probably beside the point.  The lack of relationship with Chinese intelligence services up to now does not change the potential for Huawei to be exploited in the future.  Furthermore, what the data collected for this report indicate is that the US effort to block Huawei participation in the development of 5G networks in select counties, even if successful, will not remove Huawei-built networks from the world.  Huawei is, more or less, everywhere already.

Huawei’s worldwide telecoms infrastructure has to be of great interest to Chinese intelligence.  The mere fact that Huawei has installed networks in 100+ countries would necessarily make them interesting to Chinese intelligence services.  The marketing of systems like Smart Cities, deeply embedding Huawei into digital city management that includes city-wide video monitoring and AI-driven facial recognition, should make Huawei networks even more attractive.  The fact that they have equipment at the undersea cable connection points in 60+ countries would likely be a plus for Chinese intelligence collection as well.  All of the above seems to reinforce the concern being expressed by the US and other nations that Huawei equipment presence, 5G or otherwise, opens up a country to potential exploitation and intelligence loss. 

This 30 page report includes all countries and companies tied to Huawei.  Very eye opening. 

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