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Huawei cell tower equipment can hack U.S. nuclear arsenal communications, says FBI

Investigators found the suspicious equipment near critical military bases in the rural Midwest as part of their counter-intelligence efforts against Chinese espionage, which has escalated sharply since 2017

Estados Unidos investiga a Huawei por instalar equipos cerca de depósitos de misiles
EE. UU. incluyó a Huawei entre las firmas de telecomunicaciones consideradas como una amenaza para su seguridad nacional | Shutterstock / Archivo

July 25, 2022 7:45am

Updated: July 25, 2022 10:10am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation found that Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of the nation's nuclear weapon arsenal.

Investigators found the suspicious equipment near critical military bases in the rural Midwest as part of their counter-intelligence efforts against Chinese espionage, which has escalated sharply since 2017, reports CNN.

"This gets into some of the most sensitive things we do," one former FBI official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. "It would impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad.

"That goes into the 'BFD' category,” he continued, using the acronym for “Big F---ing Deal.”

"If it is possible for that to be disrupted, then that is a very bad day," this person added.     

Multiple sources confirmed the findings with CNN, who reported that the investigation into compromised Chinese telecommunications gear was so secret that many senior policymakers in the White House and elsewhere in the government were not told of its existence until 2019.

"The existence of the investigation at the highest levels turned some doves into hawks," one former U.S. official told CNN.

The new knowledge found sparked quick action. The Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats in November of that year and effectively banned small telecoms from using them.

Then-President Donald Trump led a campaign against Huawei, cutting them off from American chip-making tech and convincing many European allies to roll back Chinese influence in their new 5G networks.

Congress approved $1.9 billion to remove Chinese-made Huawei and ZTE technology from across the Midwest, but none of that equipment has been removed due to bureaucratic hang-ups and a clunky application process. The Commerce Department opened its own probe in Huawei after President Joe Biden took office in 2021 to see how urgently issue of purging Chinese telecoms tech was, which was first reported by Reuters on Thursday.

Huawei has consistently denied that its equipment can spy for Beijing. A spokesman told CNN in a statement that all equipment imported to the U.S. has been tested and certified by the FCC and only operates on the spectrum alotted to it.

"For more than 30 years, Huawei has maintained a proven track record in cyber security and we have never been involved in any malicious cyber security incidents," said the statement.