Huawei gear not checked for spyware

Local | Amy Nip 17 Jan 2019

The Hong Kong government has spent HK$1.76 million on Huawei products in two years, but failed to check if there were backdoor functions making the products susceptible to spying.

The Innovation and Technology Bureau provided the figure in response to a lawmaker's question, after the United States, Australia and Japan announced they would ban their government agencies and telecommunications service operators from using telecommunications equipment supplied by Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation due to security reasons.

There are two channels through which government departments buy information technology products - through an agreement for supply of network products and server systems under the Office of Government Chief Information Officer, or through the departments' own tendering.

From February 2016 to November 2018, government departments bought some 190 Huawei products through the office's agreement.

This included network switches for connecting equipment on a network, accessories like cables for connecting fiber optics, and fan modules for cooling equipment.

No ZTE products were bought through the office during the period.

Despite security concerns voiced by overseas governments, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said, "At present, the network equipment brands and models procured by the government are widely used by other international cities and should not have a backdoor program or other inappropriate functions. Therefore, the prevailing procurement procedures do not include additional checking in this respect."

The office has a set of policies and technical measures to detect and intercept various potential security threats and assess the risks of cyber attacks, applicable to all products and brands, he said.

Yang's response came a day after Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei rejected claims his company is used by Beijing to spy.

His daughter Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, has been detained in Canada at the request of US authorities who allege she misled banks about the company's control of a firm operating in Iran.

"I still love my country, I support the Communist party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world," he said, adding he missed his daughter "very much."

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