Huawei is facing a major problem with all its phone models in the United States. According to security firm Kryptowire, software installed on phones from the Huawei brand and some phones from almost all Chinese manufacturers secretly monitored users and sent back text messages, internet data search, call logs, and location data back to Chinese servers every 72 hours. Kryptowire is a security contractor under the Department of Homeland Security. It took its findings to the US government on November 15 and this was made public a day after. The software was written and created by the Chinese company, Shanghai Adups Technology Company. According to Kryptowire, the software is neither a vulnerability nor a bug; it is simply a feature intentionally installed into Chinese phones. Nonetheless, the code comes preinstalled on the phones and the illegal surveillance is not disclosed to users.
According to Adups, the software was first created as a means for state surveillance, but only on phones meant for the Chinese market. The software was never meant for any international market, or so they say. It is well known that foreigners working in Chinese companies in China have to use these devices so their movements can be monitored. It has also become common knowledge in the US intelligence community and the US Congress that Huawei is the creation – and highly funded – by the Chinese MSS or Ministry of State Security. In spite of claims from Adups that the software was not for the international market, Adups admitted to have the software running on more than 700 million devices all over the world, mostly in the US and the Philippines. The company is now also partnered with almost all Chinese phone manufacturers, but mostly with Huawei, who claims that Adups software was never installed on their devices.
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When US intelligence agencies confirmed Kryptowire’s findings, even finding some phones with “chips” that seemed to be out of place, US Congress recommended that American carriers should never use network equipment from Huawei as this could be a means for China to spy on American citizens. Huawei is denying all these accusations, even going as far as saying it has no ties with Adups. Adups later added another claim that the software was merely to monitor user and customer behavior and trends. Still, this issue shows how companies manufacturing technology can intentionally compromise customer privacy, with or without the knowledge of the users themselves. It also offers a realistic look at one way Chinese companies or the Chinese government – or at least its intelligence service – can monitor and study cellphone data. Chinese phone manufacturers are required by the government to create technology to filter and track internet use, monitor online conversations, and monitor texts and call logs. All this now throws a monkey wrench on Huawei’s plans to supplant the market vacated by Samsung in the US by supposedly releasing its new Huawei Mate 9 smartphone.