Two lawmakers are warning the Biden Administration that U.S. data security and privacy could be compromised by the growing list of foreign governments adopting Huawei cloud services.
The Congressional members' concern is the connection between Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a linkage the equipment maker has steadfastly denied but one in which the U.S. has forcefully acted on to permanently bar the company’s gear from U.S. installations. Authorities have designated Huawei an unacceptable supplier over a 2017 Chinese law mandating citizens disclose sensitive information to the government.
Meanwhile, dozens of countries worldwide are deciding whether to support or reject the use of Huawei's gear -- especially amid 5G network build-outs. Huawei, meanwhile, maintains that its gear does not contain so-called back-doors for spying.
Huawei Cloud Services: Data Security Concerns?
Now, along comes the Huawei cloud services discussion -- which could have implications for MSPs and MSSPs that offer multi-cloud security services on the international scene. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) said that the Chinese telecommunication giant’s 70 cloud services agreements with 40 foreign governments could potentially expose the personal data of U.S. personnel working with those governments.
They want the White House to do something about it and want to know what that something includes. “We write to express our concern over the continued proliferation of Huawei’s cloud services and to seek information regarding the Biden administration’s strategy to stop Huawei’s Cloud spread,” the legislators wrote. “Huawei Cloud’s e-Government services promise to help countries streamline document digitization, tax services, national ID systems, elections, and more,” the letter reads. “However, they also expose Huawei’s clients to the prying eyes of the CCP,” putting all of its customers at risk.
Moreover, when Huawei’s client is a country it’s “entire population and political structure sits in the crosshairs,” they wrote, pointing to deals the telecom supplier has struck with nations of “immense geopolitical importance” to the U.S., including Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
Clean Network Concept
Cotton and Gallagher pressed Blinken about the Biden administration’s plan for the Clean Network program which was framed to safeguard data from foreign adversaries, such as China. Some 60 countries have signed onto the program as well as 200 telecoms. The legislators posed five questions to Blinken:
- What actions is the Biden administration currently taking to stop the continued proliferation of Huawei cloud services?
- Does the Biden administration plan to continue the Clean Network, including the Clean Cloud Initiative? If not, why not? What, if anything, will replace it?
- To what extent has the Biden administration engaged governments that have signed Huawei cloud services contracts to discuss the threats posed by their decisions?
- Is the Biden administration actively working to provide other countries with alternative options to Huawei cloud services? If so, what are these alternatives and what is their status?
- Are there any additional resources or authorities needed to successfully prevent the continued proliferation of Huawei cloud services?
“We must combat Huawei as a whole and target each of the company’s commercial units, including their 5G, cloud services, mobile-phone, and underwater cable businesses,” Cotton and Gallagher wrote.
Huawei has been under hardline scrutiny for years not only by the U.S. but other countries as well. In July, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission formally barred the company as a supplier, freeing up U.S. providers to remove and replace its installations and delivering opportunities for managed security service providers (MSSPs) versed in telecom. At the time, former president Trump signed into law the Secure and Trusted Communications Act, which not only bans U.S. companies from using federal funds to purchase equipment from Huawei (and ZTE), it also establishes a program to reimburse small communications providers for upgrading to trusted products.