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Pentagon bans Huawei and ZTE smartphones from US military bases

Retailers on US military bases around the world have been ordered to stop selling Huawei and ZTE smartphones over fears that they could be used for spying. 

“Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department’s personnel, information and mission,” Army Major Dave Eastburn told The Wall Street Journal, justifying the ban. 

Eastburn continued: “In light of this information, it was not prudent for the Department’s exchanges to continue selling them.”

While personnel can buy Huawei and ZTE devices for personal use, they “should be mindful of the security risks posed by the use” of Huawei and ZTE kit, he added, but suggested that the Pentagon was considering a military-wide advisory regarding the purchase or use of the devices is necessary, he said.

The WSJ went on to cite an anonymous source who claimed that US military leaders are concerned that the Chinese government could order the two companies to create backdoors in order to track soldiers’ movements or snoop on their communications, although both Huawei and ZTE have vehemently denied the possibility. 

Commenting on the military ban, a Huawei spokesperson said: “Huawei’s products are sold in 170 countries worldwide and meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country we operate globally including the US.

“We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices.” 

This latest move by US officials comes as part of a wider crackdown on the two companies. 

Huawei recently saw major US mobile telcos ATT and Verizon back out of deals to sell its smartphones following pressure from the US government.

In response to the US government coordinated action – which also encompasses Huawei’s networking gear as well as its smartphones – Huawei has reportedly axed staff “across the board” at is US-based headquarters

Things have been even worse for ZTE, which was recently slapped with a seven-year import ban by the US Department of Commerce, which means it can no longer buy components from the likes of Dolby and Qualcomm and could even cost the company its Android licence, as the US ban would prevent Google from doing business with ZTE. 

In the UK, meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre has followed the US’ lead with a warning to UK telecoms firms to stop using equipment from ZTE. 

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