Bill introduced following security concerns around Chinese companies’ possible links with government.
Texas Representative Mike Conaway has introduced the Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, following fears around potential security risks posed by the alleged ties between Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and their government.
Following some very severe cybersecurity crises in the past couple of years, the US government has decided to take action by blocking certain tech manufacturers. Akin to its ban on Kaspersky Lab products on government computers, now Huawei and ZTE are in their cross hairs.
As a result, Mike Conway introduced the bill that would bar government employees from using phones or other mobile devices made by either of the two Chinese manufacturers in a work-related capacity. That presumably includes things like loading your work email account in your phone’s email app, or syncing your Dropbox or WhatsApp apps if you also use them for work.
The stricter regulation may have more to do with a government official whose home computer was running Kaspersky Lab AV products. He brought sensitive work home with him, only to have the documents–including the source code for a US hacking tool–accessed by state sponsored foreign operatives who were believed to be with the Kremlin.
This is only the latest woe for Chinese tech manufacturers, who’ve already been targeted by government officials over concerns of the potential for hacking and spying via US consumer goods. The Verge outlines not only a called-off deal between Huawei and AT&T in their report, but also previous instances in which lawmakers have investigated any connection between the company’s devices and concerns over cybersecurity.
Both of these companies were cited in a Congressional report back in 2011, and both were recommended at that time as manufacturers the government should be blocking from official business.
Of course, this bill comes at the perfect time for the government. Apart from the “wag the dog” aspect to deflecting attention from both the Russian collusion investigation and the current US government shutdown, it also feeds directly into Donald Trump’s long-held contention that China should be doing more to intervene in his own battle of wits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Dropping lucrative deals that have been in the works–like the Huawei/AT&T and the deal to purchase MoneyGram by Ant Financial/Alibaba Express–could be an intentional signal to either play nice on the world stage, or suffer the financial consequences.