Security concerns expressed by the United States over Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei and its blacklisting are well known.  Now a  new study says Huawei’s personnel have deeper links with China’s military and intelligence bodies.

The study by Christopher Balding, professor at Fulbright University Vietnam and London’s think tank Henry Jackson Society traced at least three obvious cases of personnel in the Huawei working for Chinese military and intelligence wings.

The researchers scanned employment records of many Huawei employees and reached the conclusion that many “key mid-level technical personnel employed of Huawei have strong backgrounds in work closely associated with intelligence gathering and military activities.”

That Huawei installs backdoors in its telecommunications networking equipment to allow the Chinese government agencies to access user data has been a serious charge.

Huawei is also into smartphone production and has carved sizable market shares with its Huawei P20 smartphone.  

A tell-tale case of dual job

The researchers scanned hundreds of CVs from leaked online data of recruitment firms and highlighted a specific case to support their argument of nexus.  

That CV showed a person holding a position in Huawei simultaneously teaching and conducting research at a military university run by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Balding confirmed that this particular employee must be part of a core group in the PLA handling Chinese military’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare.

Another CV showed that an individual working for Huawei has been a representative of a government entity responsible for espionage and counterintelligence.

Elaborating the research findings, Balding said he did not come across the word “backdoor” in any CV but he had a “wealth of technical terminology hinting this general type of behavior.”

Huawei’s response

Denying the allegations, Huawei in its response said it was unable to verify the CVs cited by Balding and “cannot confirm the veracity of all of the information published online.”

 “We welcome professional and fact-based reporting on investigations into Huawei’s transparency. We hope that any further research papers will contain less conjecture when drawing their conclusions, and avoid speculative statements about what Professor Balding ‘believes,’ ‘infers,’ and ‘cannot rule out,’” a Huawei spokesperson added.

“Huawei personnel holding dual positions for Chinese intelligence gathering and electronic warfare will be taking orders from or coordinating with the Chinese state. That is what is profoundly worrisome,” Balding said in his rejoinder to CNBC.

It may be recalled that Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei was also with China's military as an engineer.  Huawei Logo A logo sits illumintated outside the Huawei booth on day 2 of the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 26, 2019. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Huawei backdoors and Vodafone’s testimony

Meanwhile, Vodafone Group had reportedly come across cases of “back doors” in the equipment supplied by Huawei for the carrier’s Italian business.

Citing Vodafone’s security briefing documents from 2009 and 2011, Bloomberg reported that the company identified hidden backdoors in the software that would pave way for illegal access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy.

Technically “backdoor” implies a way of bypassing security controls to access a computer system or encrypted data.

The Trump administration’s position has been that such end-runs around security with Huawei would amount to allowing unfettered espionage by the Chinese state.