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US says Huawei has ‘backdoor’ into mobile networks, as 5G row deepens

The United States government has alleged Huawei has backdoor access to mobile networks in countries around the world.

The Wall Street Journal brings word from a US national security adviser, claiming the under-fire Chinese firm can “access sensitive and personal information.”

In the most specific allegation we’ve heard from the US yet, Robert O’Brien said Huawei keeps and sells the information to other parties around the world.

He said: “We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world.”

The startling comments are an escalation of the US’s attempts to warn allies about the threat it believes Huawei poses their national security interests. The United Kingdom’s recent decision to allow Huawei to play a role in building the nation’s 5G infrastructure, for example, was met with consternation by US officials.

Related: What does Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s “non-core” 5G infrastructure mean?

The UK’s strongest ally had attempted to dissuade the government from the controversial strategy due to its continued suspicion of Huawei’s intentions. The UK does say Huawei will be shut out of “sensitive parts” of the 5G network, but the US is far from happy with the compromise.

Washington has even hinted the decision could impact the future trade deal to be negotiated between the US and the UK.

The US had hoped the UK turning its back on Huawei would convince nations in the European Union to follow suit. However, it now seems Germany will follow the UK’s lead in allowing Huawei to have a limited role in running the country’s 5G infrastructure.

The US has long suspected the Chinese firm of using its vast mobile infrastructure installations on foreign soil to commit espionage on behalf of the government in Beijing.

Whether today’s escalation is a case of the US turning the heat up on other countries to back its stance, or is based on a newly-discovered threat remains to be seen. The US continues to keep the heat up on Huawei by forbidding companies on home soil from dealing with the Chinese firm.