Huawei responds to leaks detailing NSA hack of firm's networks

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New "watering hole" attack plants malware at news sites to spy on Chinese dissidents
Leaks allege that the NSA targeted Chinese telecom firm Huawei for corporate data.

Huawei Technologies, a major networking equipment provider based in China, has responded to troubling leaks that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked its networks to steal product source code.

The alleged intrusion was jointly revealed on Saturday by The New York Times and the German newspaper Der Spiegel, after the publications received documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.  

According to the documents, NSA launched an operation in 2009, dubbed “Shotgiant,” to target Huawei, a competitor of Cisco, a U.S.-based equipment provider. As a result of the mission, NSA was able to hack Huwaei's network to obtain data on customers and company training information.

The leaks also revealed that NSA accessed Huawei product source code, the Der Spiegel article said.

Ironically, Huawei has been the subject of espionage accusations taken up by Washington, specifically, claims that the company was spying on behalf of the Chinese government. Amidst heightened concerns in October 2012, a White-House commissioned study found that Huwei did not pose a cyber espionage threat to the U.S.

On Monday, Huawei emailed SCMagazine.com a statement on the recent NSA-related allegations.

The telecom giant indirectly addressed the leaks, saying that it “disagrees” with any activity that would “threaten the security of networks.”

“Corporate networks are under constant probe and attack from different sources – such is the status quo in today's digital age,” the Huawei statement said. “Huawei disagrees with all activities that threaten the security of networks and is willing to work with all governments, industry stakeholders and customers, in an open and transparent manner, to jointly address the global challenge of network security.”

The company later added that, “like other enterprises, we continuously block, clean and reinforce our infrastructure from cyber threats.”

On Monday, Martin Libicki, senior management scientist at RAND, a global policy think tank, told SCMagazine.com that, U.S. officials have ultimately failed to produce the “smoking gun” that indicates Huawei in cyber espionage activities targeting the U.S.

In addition, recent leaks have worsened the already weakened relations between the U.S. and China (and other countries), as it pertains to matters of cyber conduct, he added.

“The ability to pursue China over the economic espionage argument hasn't gone away, but it was considerably weakened,” Libicki said. “Which may have been just as well, because I don't think [the U.S.] would have been very successful even under the best of circumstances.”

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