NSA accessed data of Chinese telecom company

Updated: 2014-03-24 08:28

By Agencies in Washington and Berlin (China Daily)

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The US National Security Agency secretly tapped into the networks of Chinese telecom and Internet giant Huawei, The New York Times and Der Spiegel reported on their websites on Saturday.

The NSA accessed Huawei's e-mail archive, communications between top company officials, internal documents and even the secret source code of individual Huawei products, according to the reports, based on documents provided by fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"We currently have good access and so much data that we don't know what to do with it," said one internal document cited by Der Spiegel.

Fang Xingdong, founder blogChina.com, said this event was further evidence that Huawei was a victim of cyberattacks.

"It is unfair for the US government to use its national power to monitor foreign leaders and enterprises' data. Not only Huawei, but Yahoo and Google were also targeted, because they were weak compared to the US.

"Huawei was China's strongest company in technology research, but it also fell. How could our cybersecurity be protected?" he said.

Huawei - founded in 1987 by former People's Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei - has long been seen by Washington as a potential security Trojan horse due to perceived close links to the Chinese government, which it denies.

The US and Australia have barred Huawei from involvement in broadband projects over espionage fears.

Shenzhen-based Huawei is a major network equipment provider and the world's third-largest smartphone vendor.

The original goal of "Operation Shotgiant" was to find links between Huawei and the Chinese military, according to a 2010 document cited by The New York Times.

But it then expanded with the goal of learning how to penetrate Huawei computer and telephone networks sold to third countries.

"Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products," the NSA document said, according to the US newspaper.

"We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products," it added, to "gain access to networks of interest" around the world.

According to The New York Times, William Plummer, a senior Huawei executive in the United States, said the company had no idea it was an NSA target.

Plummer said, "The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us.

"Huawei has declared its willingness to work with governments, industry stakeholders and customers in an open and transparent manner, to jointly address the global challenges of network security and data integrity," Plummer said in an e-mail.

"The information presented in Der Spiegel and The New York Times article reaffirms the need for all companies to be vigilant at all times."

US officials say that the spy agencies are not waging an industrial espionage campaign on behalf of US companies, as Snowden has alleged.

"The fact that we target foreign companies for intelligence is not part of any economic espionage," a senior intelligence official told reporters on Thursday.

The goal of economic intelligence efforts is "to support national security interests", the official said.

AFP-AP-China Daily