The US National Security Agency reportedly spied on the major Chinese networking company Huawei during an intelligence campaign against China, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel. Chinese politicians such as former president Hu Jintao, the Trade Ministry, as well as banks and telecommunications companies were also targeted.
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the 2009 operation dubbed â€œShotgiantâ€ against Huawei, the major competitor of US-based Cisco.
Huawei is the second-largest supplier of network hardware equipment with 150,000 employees and annual revenue of $38.6 billion. The company produces equipment such as WLAN routers, phone infrastructure, tablets and smartphones, even fiber optic cable; â€œthe kind of technology that is decisive in the NSA’s battle for data supremacy.â€
It is said the NSA infiltrated the companyâ€™s network, copied internal documents and a list of 1,400 customers and stole the source code of some Huawei products. Emails from Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei and Chairwoman Sun Yafang were also said to have been intercepted.
“We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it,â€ the article quoted an internal NSA document as saying. “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products, we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products.”
The FBI and the intelligence coordinator from the White House are said to have been involved too.
“If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” Bill Plummer, Huawei spokesman said. “If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation.”
NSA spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on the reported incident, but said â€œI can tell you that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country.”