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Spyware Concerns: The Huawei Scandal

Woman's headshot with blurred background By Lara Gibbons April 14, 2020

Categories: Industry Trends IT Insights Managed Mobility Technology

Timeline of Huawei’s Fall from Grace and its Effects on the Mobile Industry

Huawei is one of the largest technology companies in China. How large? They’re the 2nd largest smartphone seller in the world after Samsung. The company, founded in 1987 by former People’s Liberation Army member Ren Zhengei, currently has a seemingly endless list of allegations and charges against it. In a nutshell, Huawei equipment is considered a national security threat. Many suspect it is used by the Chinese government to spy on the US and other countries.

But when were they first suspected of foul play? And what brought them to where they are today? Here’s a timeline, from 2003 until today, covering the events as we know them.

Events Timeline  


Cisco sues Huawei

Cisco sued the company for violating patents and copying source codes used in their routers and switches. The lawsuit was settled out of court and its terms were kept confidential. Huawei stopped using the technology.

2008 (February)

US blocks Huawei from buying 3Com

The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security blocked the company from buying 3Com, a U.S. manufacturer of router and networking products. The U.S. Military and Government opposed the buy due to security concerns.

 2010 (May)

Huawei backs out from acquiring 3Leaf Systems

3Leaf Systems was an insolvent technology provider of server virtualization solutions. The company purchased 3Leaf assets but failed to file with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS). The committee, tasked with reviewing deals for threats to national security, sited concerns over a possible link between the company and China’s security services. Huawei backed out of the deal.

2010 (July)

Motorola sues Huawei for theft of confidential proprietary information

Motorola initially filed the lawsuit in 2008 against more than a dozen of their former employees. Employees were accused of sending confidential information regarding Motorola’s cellular network equipment to Huawei.


Huawei employees accused of stealing T-Mobile’s smart phone robot Tappy

Huawei employees based in the U.S. were accused of stealing details from T-Mobile’s smart phone testing robot named Tappy. The Justice Department said the FBI had retained emails in which the company’s executives offered employees bonuses if they obtained proprietary and confidential information from technology companies around the world.


Huawei accused of stealing plug-in smartphone invention

Portuguese inventor Rui Pedro Oliveira accused the company of stealing his plug-in smartphone camera invention. Oliveira presented his invention to Huawei executives. He never heard back from them, but in 2017 the company released a camera similar to Oliveira’s. The company denied the accusation.

2018 (January)

Huawei accused of installing “back door” into African Union headquarters computer system

In 2012, the company installed the computer system in the Chinese built African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2018, French newspaper Le Monde exposed a “back door” that enabled theft of confidential information. China vehemently denied the accusation and stated the breach of equipment used by the African Union had nothing to do with the company.

2018 (January)

ATT and Verizon drop Huawei

ATT and Verizon canceled plans to offer the company’s phones in the U.S. due to security concerns.

2018 (February)

U.S. Intelligence Chiefs urge Americans to stop buying Huawei and ZTE products

Heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the Director of National Intelligence advised Americans to stop using Huawei and ZTE products due to security concerns.

2018 (February)

Australian Defense Department phase out Huawei and ZTE devices

The Australian Defense Department announced they were phasing out all Huawei and ZTE mobile devices due to security concerns.

2018 (May)

Pentagon bans sale of Huawei and ZTE phones for US military

The Pentagon banned the company’s and ZTE products on U.S. military bases worldwide, believing them to be a national security threat.

2018 (August)

Australia says no to Huawei 5G

Australia banned the company from bidding to participate in their 5G network due to national security threats.

2018 (December)

Czech cybersecurity agency warns against using Huawei and ZTE equipment due to security threat

Dusan Navratil, Director of the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NCISA), stated that “China’s laws…require private companies residing in China to cooperate with intelligence services, therefore, introducing them into the key state systems might present a threat.” In December 2019, Navratil was arrested and charged with espionage.

2019 (January)

Huawei and CFO, Wanzhou Meng charged with Financial Fraud

U.S. Attorney Donoghue brought a 13-count indictment against the company, its CFO, and two affiliates, Skycom Tech and Huawei Device U.S.A. The executives faced charges for money laundering, conspiracy, bank fraud, and more.

2019 (May)

Trump Administration bans companies from doing business with Huawei without consent

U.S. companies were banned from providing components and software to Huawei without government permission.

2019 (July)

Huawei accused of building North Korea’s 3G Network

The company, partnering with Panda International Information Technology, was alleged to have helped North Korea build its wireless mobile network. Since the company uses U.S. technology in its components, this was in violation of American export controls to furnish North Korea with equipment.

2019 (November)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denies funds to carriers that work with Huawei and ZTE

The FCC barred use of its $8.5 billion a year Universal Service Fund (USF) to purchase equipment and services from companies that pose a national security threat. The order specifically mentioned Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corp. as companies covered by the rule.


Huawei today?

The company is now manufacturing smart phones without U.S. chips. In January 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense blocked regulations set forth by the Trump Administration in May 2019 that banned companies from doing business with Huawei without consent. The Pentagon felt that the ban would negatively affect U.S. technology companies.

How has Huawei affected the Managed Mobility industry and the clients they serve?

Most companies who offer Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) devices have removed them as an option while companies who follow a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model no longer allow employees to use their models.

Huawei is one of the pioneers of 5G. How has this affected the rollout of 5G in the world? 

In January 2020, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson gave Huawei permission to build their 5G network. This should be a great concern for England and has the United States questioning PM Johnson’s decision. To learn more about 5G, read our


As demonstrated by this timeline, Huawei has been the cause for national security concerns, not only by the United States but worldwide. The actions by Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengei and other company officials, in addition to the companies they’ve partnered with and the employees they’ve hired, have been questionable to say the least. Security has always been a pivotal concern within the MMS industry. Organizations and governments must be vigilant in securing their equipment and devices from these concerns.

Concerned about the security on your employee’s mobile devices? Have questions regarding your company’s mobile policy? On the market for a mobility solution provider? Motus can help! We are your preferred mobility solution provider with a team of experts in the industry that has security at the forefront of our minds. Connect with us to get started!

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