Serious Blow: FBI, CIA Warn Against Buying Huawei Phones

Purchasing a phone made by Chinese company Huawei could expose you to having your information stolen or spying, say the chiefs of the major U.S. intelligence agencies.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As reported by CNBC, the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, as well as the director of national intelligence, warned against buying Huawei handsets during a meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"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," testified FBI Director Chris Wray.

"To say that this presents a challenge to Huawei's smartphone business in the US would be a massive understatement." - Avi Greengart, GlobalData

"That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure," Wray said. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."

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In response, Huawei issued the following statement:

"Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities."

U.S. lawmakers were already pushing a bill that would ban the government from using Huawei and ZTE phones, citing connections between these companies and the Chinese government, but this is the first time that everyday consumers are being warned.

"U.S. authorities used to make a distinction between telecom infrastructure and consumer devices; that line is now deliberately being blurred," said Avi Greengart, research director of consumer platforms and devices at GlobalData. "To say that this presents a challenge to Huawei's smartphone business in the U.S. would be a massive understatement."

According to previous reports, both AT&T and Verizon backed away from selling the Mate 10 Pro, a promising flagship phone that we praised in our review for its AI camera features and long battery life.

However, without carrier support, the company has been forced to rely on U.S. retailers such as Best Buy. And this week Huawei got in hot water for reportedly encouraging the publication of fake reviews of its handset through Best Buy, though the firm chalked up the controversy to "confusion around a recent social media post reaching out to recruit new beta testers."

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.