Huawei offers to meet with U.S. cybersecurity officials

Huawei has not satisfied UK cybersecurity concerns, but the company says the problem is bigger than just Huawei. (Getty Images)

DONGGUAN, CHINA — Huawei cybersecurity officials this week outlined plans for bolstering security in Huawei products, arguing that software development needs to be improved throughout the telecom industry, not only at Huawei.

In a related move, these Huawei officials also offered to meet with U.S. cybersecurity officials to gain more insight on specifically which Huawei security capabilities are lacking.

The U.S. has claimed in recent months that the Chinese government can access data running on Huawei computers used by Huawei’s customers, posing a national security threat. Among other measures, President Trump has imposed a ban that takes effect in August on U.S. companies supplying components to Huawei.

RELATED: Commerce Dept. bans Huawei, 70 affiliates from sourcing U.S. components

Jeff Nan, senior expert for cybersecurity at Huawei, told reporters here that Huawei would like to meet U.S. security officials to discuss the U.S. security claims, but no such meeting has occurred. He said Huawei would be willing to discuss ways to show it is meeting U.S. security standards suggested by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as well as FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards).

“The U.S. government hasn’t used NIST to evaluate existing Huawei products and give objective insights,” he said. “We’ve not given up. We communicate with stakeholders in the U.S."

But that apparently does not include the U.S. government security establishment.

Martin Wang, director of Huawei’s cybersecurity lab in Dongguan said an elaborate procedure for reviewing security and privacy of products such as smartphones and base stations was created in 2012. In 2013, the lab found 50 of 224 products reviewed could not proceed to market, about 30%, for various problems. That percentage dropped to 5% in 2014 and 0.1 % in 2019.

Security in the UK

However, concerns raised by the UK’s Huawei Cybersecurity Evaluation Center (HCSEC) in March showed that dozens of Huawei products had serious defects in software engineering and cybersecurity compromises.

RELATED: U.K. says Huawei equipment has major security flaws

Huawei quickly responded that it takes the findings seriously and has committed to a process of three to five years to rectify the problem, at a cost of more than $2 billion. But the latest HCSEC report found that despite numerous security concerns identified in the 2018 report, Huawei has made “no material progress” in addressing those issues.

On Tuesday before a small group of U.S. reporters, Wang said the HCSEC findings “are not an issue faced by Huawei only but all others in the industry. We need to build the software engineering process and it’s a challenge for all in the industry. Huawei will be seen as a leader.”

He said Huawei carrier customers rated Huawei telecom equipment above the industry average in 2016 to 2018, according to an analysis by CFI Group.

“We are determined to resolve the issues with organization, processes and our training program,” Wang added. Concerns raised by HCSEC and the U.S. government have steeled the resolve of cybersecurity personnel at Huawei, he said. “Our morale has never been better. We will fulfill our responsibility,” Wang added.

Huawei's Dongguan campus

The Huawei executives spoke after reporters toured a new Huawei Bantian campus in Dongguan. The campus houses 18,000 R&D employees, which will reach 25,000 by next year. Buildings inspired by mainly Renaissance European architecture are arranged on hillsides and ponds, with mass dining halls for workers. A rail train built by a Swiss firm runs on tracks through eight zones (reaching a dozen next year) labeled Paris and Grenada, among others. Japanese architecture firm Nikken Sekkei designed the project.

Joe Kelly, vice president of international media affairs for Huawei, said Huawei employees — now tallied at 188,000 globally — are “talking at the water cooler” about U.S. government criticism of Huawei security and related matters. “At lot of people didn’t know what the issue was” at first, he added.

Some company leaders had anticipated the criticism coming from the U.S. and some other governments, going back more than a year, partly because of Huawei’s success in the global market, Kelly added. Huawei saw a 19% jump in revenues in 2018 to $107 billion, and saw a 39% hike in revenues in the first three months of 2019. “Employees are buoyed by the results,” Kelly said. First half 2019 revenues will be reported in July.

Huawei has distributed 100,000 5G base stations and is working with 42 carriers to implement 5G, he added.

“We have so many supporters, including carriers and governments, and that makes people feel good,” Kelly said. “We have no issue with the American people or American companies, just the American government.”