December 3, 2022

Visitors pass in front of the Huawei display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Lluis genes | AFP | Getty Images

The latest news that Huawei is actively trying to convert its business model to software development and circumvent existing US bans is a matter of great concern.

Huawei has long posed a threat to the foundation of the telecommunications sector and the backbone of the digital world by distributing below market value goods to corner a critical global economic sector.

In this way, Huawei exposes millions of ignorant users to devices that are at best technically inferior and at worst completely accessible to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This level of control and the ability to access an immeasurable amount of data poses a clear threat to the security and sovereignty not only of the United States but of countries around the world.

The United States previously led the world in digital security efforts. We’ve had a maximum pressure strategy for some time to ensure Huawei couldn’t continue to gain market share through predatory business practices that exposed the world to digital uncertainty.

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 effects of this inaction are already being felt nearby.

Huawei is now present in six countries across Latin America and has completed twelve projects, including six data centers. Through these strategic investments, Huawei has significant access to government data and is likely to use it to advance the CCP’s geopolitical goals.

Shockingly, Huawei has established itself right in our south in Mexico and is expanding its presence. It is noteworthy that it is actively providing data analysis services to the Mexican Minister of Communications and Transport, an agency that, among other things, oversees Mexico’s entire transport, maritime and port infrastructure, as well as its cybersecurity programs.

In addition, Huawei supplies hardware and services for the Internet of Things to the Mexican postal service and has developed a data center for Pemex, the Mexican state-owned energy company and the second largest company in Latin America.

It seems ridiculous to enact substantial bans in your own country for security reasons and then allow our number one neighbor and trading partner to embed the same company at the highest levels of its government and its largest units.

The stake is simply too high for the Biden administration to give up this maximum pressure campaign now. The apparent audacity of Huawei – an established geopolitical villain – to turn to software development is a clear sign that they believe it will have no impact.

This should alarm us all. As we’ve seen in a number of high profile cyber incidents recently, one line of faulty code can trigger a digital pandemic with cascading effects. Software Assurance is a major home security issue of our time, and Huawei is the last player we want to play a key role in this area.

Existing analysis of Huawei firmware (software embedded in the products) has shown a shocking level of security neglect. Allowing Huawei to redouble its software development efforts is a risk we cannot tolerate.

It was disappointing to see the State Department’s 5G website removed, which explained to the world and our allies the challenges we all share in this area. Only the Department of Homeland Security now manages public resources this way.

America must lead the way and have the courage to vigorously oppose bad technology players who, through bureaucratic maneuvers and clever marketing, try to fit into our daily lives, hinder any attempt at digital security and our understanding of ethics and morals to corrupt behavior in cyberspace from within.

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