Aug 14, 2019

Report: Huawei employees helped African governments spy on opponents

A member of Huawei's reception staff enters a building used for high profile customer visits in Shenzhen, China. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Huawei employees have helped African governments spy on political opponents in at least 2 instances not disclosed to the public, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What they found: In 2018, Huawei engineers working in Uganda used spyware developed by an Israeli company to infiltrate opposition leader Bobi Wine's WhatsApp, reportedly at the request of a Ugandan cyber-surveillance unit. In Zambia, Huawei technicians "helped the government access the phones and Facebook pages of a team of opposition bloggers running a pro-opposition news site," WSJ reports.

  • WSJ identified the Huawei engineers in Uganda by name after reviewing internal police documents.
  • WSJ spoke with senior security officials in Zambia that identified 2 Huawei technicians by name. Those technicians were reportedly based "in a cyber-surveillance unit in the offices of Zambia’s telecom regulator."

The big picture: The U.S. has repeatedly accused Huawei of acting as an espionage arm of the Chinese government and urged countries not to do business with the company. However, WSJ's investigation "didn’t turn up evidence of spying by or on behalf of Beijing in Africa. Nor did it find that Huawei executives in China knew of, directed or approved the activities described."

The other side: A Huawei spokesman told WSJ in a written statement that the company has “never been engaged in ‘hacking’ activities" and "Huawei rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations against our business operations.”

Go deeper: Google limits Huawei's access to Android code

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,383,582 — Total deaths: 344,077 — Total recoveries — 2,158,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,640,972 — Total deaths: 97,679 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
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