There are a lot of rumors and claims being made that products manufactured by Huawei act suspiciously or in a non-standard way in order to send information "back home" or to facilitate unauthorized access. The more general claim is that Huawei is linked to the PRC and is a front for a spying or espionage attempt on western nations.

Some examples of such claims:

Wikipedia also has a good summary.

Anecdotally I've worked with several people who refuse to use Huawei equipment because they claim to have witnessed the devices generating suspicious traffic which could not be accounted for. I'm very skeptical that this is true.

Recently Australia denied Huawei the chance to bid on developing the national broadband network. This is following in the steps of India who prevented Huawei from selling to domestic phone carriers. In both cases no official reason was given, but rumors of spying or espionage persist. The US Department of Defense also expressed concerns about Huawei in a 2011 report to Congress.

Is there any documented evidence of network devices manufactured by Huawei acting in a non-standard or suspicious manner?

  • 3
    Why are you skeptical of these claims? More to the point-- if it is, in fact, a PRC front for intelligence gathering, how do you expect any kind of definitive answer to get posted here that wouldn't immediately be denied by the PRC?
    – mmr
    Apr 6, 2012 at 2:05
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    @mmr I could imagine that, in the same way key-loggers and trojans can be reverse engineered to figure out where they are sending their stuff to, a Huawei device could be analyzed by an electronics engineer. If anything like that had been done, that would allow for a very good answer.
    – Lagerbaer
    Apr 6, 2012 at 3:38
  • @Lagerbaer-- if I were doing anything of the sort, I'd use a whole bunch of relays, or better yet, go through tor to some obscured address. In other words, make it very difficult to have any verifiable evidence of who's responsible.
    – mmr
    Apr 6, 2012 at 3:56
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    Baring research done by an independent security company, I'm not even sure you are going to find official documentation one way or the other for diplomatic and national security reasons.
    – rjzii
    Apr 6, 2012 at 13:36
  • 1
    "You don't think that would be noticeable?" - but what you are claiming skepticism of is people telling you that they noticed it. Dec 13, 2017 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


It's hard to prove a negative, but in 2012 Reuters reported that a US classified investigation was leaked, and it said no evidence was found:

The classified inquiry was a thorough review of how Huawei worked, involving nearly 1,000 telecom equipment buyers.

One of the government employees involved with the inquiry told Reuters: "We knew certain parts of government really wanted evidence of active spying. We would have found it if it were there."

Note that the investigation still found run-of-the-mill security vulnerabilities, which could have been exploited by anyone who knew about them. And in fact were...

In 2014 evidence leaked by Snowden showed that the NSA had gained access to Huawei source code by hacking their servers:

The New York Times withheld technical details on exactly how the NSA had compromised Huawei's servers in response to national security reasons cited by the Obama administration. But a leaked NSA "spy catalog" made available on Cryptome, a website that publishes government and corporate documents, does show how the agency had already succeeded in installing software back doors in certain Huawei hardware, such as firewalls and routers, as early as 2008. The NSA catalog also reveals exploits for computer hardware belonging to U.S. companies such as Dell.

"The exploits in the NSA catalog actually mirror what the U.S. has been accusing Huawei of potentially doing to their products," Bumgarner [chief technology officer at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute] says.

A joint NSA and CIA operation targeting Huawei products appears under the code name "Turbopanda" in several software exploits described by the NSA catalog. One persistent backdoor software implant named "Headwater" targets Huawei routers so that the NSA could monitor Internet traffic passing through them. Another backdoor software implant called "Halluxwater" targets Huawei's Eudemon series of hardware firewalls—computers that guard an organization's internal network from the rest of the Internet.

So the concern seems to be based on the premise "if we could do it, so could they".

Furthermore, in the US, some US corporations have been accused of preferentially informing of their security vulnerabilities to US national security agencies, before patching.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft (MSFT) and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials. Microsoft doesn't ask and can't be told how the government uses such tip-offs, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

I tried to find if Huawei has a similar practice with the Chinese government, but I couldn't find specifics.

The closest thing to direct/mass surveillance from a Chines company is probably the more recent (2016) case of Adups:

Kryptowire, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, said the Adups software transmitted the full contents of text messages, contact lists, call logs, location information and other data to a Chinese server. The code comes preinstalled on phones and the surveillance is not disclosed to users, said Tom Karygiannis, a vice president of Kryptowire, which is based in Fairfax, Va. “Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t have known about it,” he said.

Although Adups provides software to Huawei, it seems only the US phones of a company called BLU Products were affected by this "feature". A more recent (2017) take on this story also flagged the Cubot phone maker, but also makes broader non-specific claims that many cheap phones (< $300) may be affected.

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