NSA hacked Huawei network for cyber espionage

Pierluigi Paganini March 23, 2014

NSA leaked documents, analyzed by Der Spiegel and The Times, report that NSA has hacked Huawei network to demonstrate the link with Chinese PLA.

In the past years, many times US authorities and private industry have accused Chinese electronics manufacturer Huawei of cyber espionage, let’s remind also that Symantec has broken its joint-venture with the company, Huawei-Symantec, because the US firm feared business repercussion for the collaboration with the Chinese giant.

This time the situation was reversed, according classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden and released to popular newspapers Der Spiegel and The Times, the National Security Agency has hacked the network and the servers of the headquarters of Chinese Huawei.

The US Government justified its activities as ‘Hacking for National Security‘ and to demonstrate that Chinese giant Huawei is responsible for ‘Corporate Theft‘.

Huawei hacked by NSA

According to the documents, the US hackers targeted email servers of Huawei five years ago, in the 2009, searching for sensitive information. The hacking campaign conducted by the NSA was codenamed as “Operation Shotgiant“, it was arranged with the support of the CIA, the FBI and the White House intelligence coordinator.

“Because Huawei directed all mail traffic from its employees through a central office in Shenzhen, where the NSA had infiltrated the network, the Americans were able to read a large share of the email sent by company workers beginning in January 2009, including messages from company CEO Ren Zhengfei and Chairwoman Sun Yafang.”

The hacking operation was conducted to demonstrate the participation of China’s People’s Liberation Army into Huawei strategy, so to demonstrate that the Chinese company was collaborating with the Government of Beijing to spy on US.

“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,” he 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.” has criticized Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer. 

But there are other goals that the NSA achieved hacking into the server of Huawei, the Chinese company, in fact, has provided network appliances to many other countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, and Cuba this means that stealing the source code for certain Huawei products the US Intelligence also has the opportunity to spy on these foreign customers.

“We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it,” states one internal document. As justification for targeting the company, an NSA document claims that “many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products, we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products.”

The documents also reported that the NSA was spying on former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the country’s trade ministry, banks, and telecoms firms. Another interesting intelligence activity conducted by the NSA is related to the tracking dozens of Chinese hacking groups, some of team belonging to Government military.

The US Government hasn’t replied to the claims, the NSA spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden avoided to provide any comment on specific SAGINT operations on foreign countries, but remarked that US Intelligence activities focus on homeland security.
but I can tell you that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country.” She also said, “We do not give intelligence we collect to US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.” said Hayden. 

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Huawai, NSA hacking)

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