Going from being one of the world’s most advanced tech companies to being a serious offender, Huawei has faced accusations of being a real threat to world security. The company has faced negative backlash since as early as 2001, when Indian security services accused Huawei of doing business dealings with the Taliban, Pakistan, and Iraq. Two years later, Cisco filed a lawsuit against Huawei alleging that the latter had unlawfully copied intellectual property from the American networking infrastructure firm. While these are serious claims, the more recent allegations of its 5G network being a risk for governments and citizens are what have caused Huawei’s apparent fall from grace.
Since March 2017, when WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 emerged, the company has been continuously targeted by political figures. The document listed a series of known software bugs in all types of hardware, and in many cases, intelligence agencies had been deliberately withholding security bugs from vendors. As Huawei was part of that list, it became known that the company’s products had a series of vulnerabilities that up until that point had remained undisclosed. The next year was even more tumultuous, with Australia outright banning Huawei 5G equipment and the Japanese government announcing that it was also considering a ban on equipment from Huawei. This was followed by the arrest of the company’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, in December. The next month, she was charged with over 23 criminal charges, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and IP theft.
The drama continued to unfold as further leaks suggested the tech giant had been receiving funds from Beijing’s national security apparatus, the People's Liberation Army, and an additional third branch of Chinese state intelligence. Chairman Liang Hua stated that Huawei would move its operations to countries where it was welcomed and slow its activities in the remaining, while guaranteeing that it follows every single country’s regulations where it operates.
However, that wasn’t enough, as by May 2019, the company was hit by further U.S. trade restrictions. Google intervened, saying it might be forced to prevent Android from shipping on future handsets, as well as limiting access to Google services. While mobile handset businesses and infrastructure providers will have 90 days to work with Huawei to remove its technologies from networks and devices, what will happen after that is still uncertain.
For customers, this means that until August 19, Google will be able to deliver software updates on their devices. However, after that date, their devices will become even more vulnerable to attacks, as the lack of new updates will leave them with an obsolete OS. While the word out there is that Huawei’s in-house operating system will be ready to launch in autumn 2019, conflicting reports declare that it is still very far from ready. With no apparent solution so far, customers are now stuck between waiting for an update on what will come in the near future, or simply walking away from Huawei. For the company, this means that not only does it need to find a way to overcome the technical difficulties ahead, but it also needs to regain its customers’ trust.
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