The US Democratic National Committee (DNC) has instructed all of its candidates running in November’s mid-term elections to stop using devices manufactured by Chinese telecommunication vendors Huawei and ZTE.
Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer wrote a memo that stressed the importance that candidates and party campaign workers did not use Huawei or ZTE smartphone devices because of the alleged risk both pose to US national security.
In the memo, Lord wrote, "It's very important that party and campaign workers not use ZTE or Huawei devices, even if the price is low or free. Please make sure that you are not using or purchasing ZTE or Huawei devices anywhere within your staff - for personal or work-related use.
CNN has reported that the warning was issued after the DNC was made aware of reports a leading Democratic organization was considering buying ZTE smartphones for its staff for the campaign in November.
CNN’s report didn’t reveal why Lord is urging party members to ditch ZTE and Huawei devices from the campaign trail. However, the warning echoes the sentiment expressed by US intelligence agencies in February.
The heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA along with the director of national intelligence warned all US citizens not to use devices manufactured by either Huawei or ZTE, citing severe ‘national security’ concerns. The US intelligence community believes ZTE and Huawei are controlled by the Chinese government, and that the smartphones can be used for espionage purposes.
FBI director Chris Wray expressed his concern in a statement and believes that both companies pose a risk to infringe on US values in relation to privacy and security.
Wray said, "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.
That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage, added Wray.”
Following Wray's comments, Huawei - which this year saw AT&T and Verizon back out of deals to flog its smartphones following pressure from the US government- defended its record in a statement: "We operate in 170 countries where there is trust with governments and customers. We pose no greater cybersecurity risk than any other vendors."
And ZTE, which last month had its US trade ban lifted, added: "As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards."