Op-ed: Biden needs to stick with Huawei maximum pressure campaign

Op-ed: Biden needs to stick with Huawei maximum pressure campaign

June 3, 2021
  • The recent reporting that Huawei is actively attempting to shift its business model to software development and sidestep existing U.S. prohibitions is cause for grave concern.
  • Unfortunately, it remains to be seen whether the Biden Administration will continue this maximum pressure strategy, and the repercussions of this inaction are already being felt close to home.

The recent reporting that Huawei is actively attempting to shift its business model to software development and sidestep existing U.S. prohibitions is cause for grave concern.

Huawei has long posed a threat to the very foundation of the telecom sector and the backbone of the digital world through its proliferation of goods delivered at below market value in an attempt to corner a critical global economic sector.

In doing so, Huawei exposes millions of unwitting users to equipment that is at best technically shoddy and at worst fully accessible by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). That level of control and the ability to access an untold amount of data represents a clear threat to the security and sovereignty of not only the United States but countries around the world.

The United States previously led the world in digital security efforts. For some time, we pursued a strategy of maximum pressure to ensure that Huawei could not continue to capture market share through predatory business practices that subjected the world to digital insecurity.

Many nations followed suit, and the United States developed a better security posture through aggressive and effective risk assessment regimes, policies, and regulatory measures.

Unfortunately, it remains to be seen whether the Biden Administration will continue this strategy, and the repercussions of this inaction are already being felt close to home.

Huawei now has a presence in six countries throughout Latin America and has completed twelve projects, including six data centers. Through these strategic investments, Huawei has significant access to and is likely mining government data to further the geopolitical goals of the CCP.

Alarmingly, directly to our south in Mexico, Huawei has established itself and is growing its presence. Of note, it is actively providing data analysis services to the Mexican Secretary of Communications and Transportation, an agency that oversees all of Mexico's transportation, maritime and port infrastructure as well as its cybersecurity programs, among other things.

In addition, Huawei is supplying Internet of Things hardware and services to the Mexican Postal Service and developed a data center for Pemex, the Mexican state-owned energy conglomerate and Latin America's second largest enterprise.

It seems ludicrous to enact significant bans on the basis of security in our own country to then have our neighbor and number one trading partner let the very same company embed itself at the highest levels of their government and with their largest entities.

The stakes are simply too high for the Biden Administration to abandon this maximum pressure campaign now. The apparent audacity of Huawei – a well-established geopolitical bad actor – to pivot to software development is a clear indication that they believe there will be no repercussions in doing so. 

This should alarm us all. As we've seen with a recent string of high-profile cyber incidents, one bad line of code can create a digital pandemic with cascading impacts. Software assurance is a major homeland security issue of our time, and Huawei is the last actor we want playing a key role in this space.

Existing analysis of Huawei's firmware (software embedded within its products) has shown shocking levels of security neglect. Allowing Huawei to double down in its software development efforts is a risk we cannot tolerate.  

It's been disappointing to see the removal of the Department of State 5G website that explained to the world and our allies the challenges we all share in this space. Only the Department of Homeland Security now maintains public resources in this way.

America must lead the way and have the courage to staunchly oppose bad actors in the technology space who through bureaucratic maneuvering and clever marketing seek to weave their way into our daily lives, hamstring any attempt at digital security, and corrupt our understanding of ethical and moral behavior in cyberspace from within.

 Rep. John Katko (R-NY) is the lead Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

 

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