US Software Firm Accuses Huawei of Installing ‘Back Door’ to Spy on Pakistan

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A U.S. software company is accusing Chinese tech giant Huawei of pressuring it to build a data “back door” into a government security project in Pakistan, according to a recent legal filing submitted at the Central District Court in California.

California-based Business Efficiency Solutions (BES), in a lawsuit filed on Aug. 11, also accused Huawei of stealing its trade secrets while the software company worked as Huawei’s contractor for a safe-city project in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab Province.

BES said in its lawsuit that Huawei used “one of BES’s software systems to establish a ‘backdoor’ from China into Pakistan that allowed Huawei to collect and view data important to Pakistan’s national security and other private, personal data on Pakistani citizens.”

The current legal dispute was born out of a partnership between the companies that started in 2016. That year, Huawei and Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA), a provincial government body, entered an agreement for the Chinese company to implement a high-tech surveillance system, including more than 8,000 cameras, in Lahore, according to Pakistani media.

At that time, Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab, said that the safe-city project would turn Lahore into a crime-free city.

The system would be available to the Punjab Police Integrated Command, Control, and Communication Center (PPIC3) of Lahore.

Huawei has heavily promoted its surveillance technology worldwide, sometimes under its “Safe City” or “Smart City” solutions promising to make cities more secure. In 2019, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to update U.S. travel advisories to warn Americans about traveling to countries with Huawei’s surveillance apparatus.

“These technologies could expose their personal data to foreign governments, including potentially China,” the senators wrote.

In Pakistan, at least nine cities have signed up for Huawei’s Safe City systems since 2015. However, some cities, including Islamabad, have reported increased crime rates after adopting the systems.

The agreement between PSCA and Huawei was signed after a bidding process. According to the complaint, Huawei topped competitors, including Nokia and Motorola, with a bid of $150 million.

By Frank Fang

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