The U.S. National Security Agency has hacked into Huawei Technologies servers, spied on communications of company executives and collected information to plant so-called backdoors on equipment from the Chinese networking manufacturer, according to reports published over the weekend.
In response, the NSA said that it declines to comment on specific, alleged foreign intelligence activities. In a statement emailed to the IDG News Service, the agency elaborated, saying that "NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against -- and only against -- valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements."
Huawei officials were not immediately available for comment.
The latest reports are part of a long-running cyberespionage saga. U.S. officials have contended for years that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) works with manufacturers and hacking groups to spy on U.S. companies and government agencies.
Since last June, documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations have shown that the NSA has conducted its own surveillance campaigns, including programs to hack into equipment from Chinese networking manufacturers.
But according to new reports over the weekend from The New York Times and Der Spiegel and based on documents leaked by Snowden, the NSA succeeded in penetrating equipment at Huawei headquarters in a plan to monitor communications on the company's networking equipment worldwide.
The NSA "pried its way" into Huawei servers at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China, according to an online report in The New York Times Saturday.
The operation, code-named "Shotgiant," was to try to establish long-suspected links between Huawei and the PLA, and also to plant backdoors on Huawei equipment sold worldwide, according to the Times.
Among the information cited by newspaper was a 2010 document detailing Shotgiant operations. However, covert operations against Huawei go as far back as 2007, The New York Times report said. The NSA also monitored communications of Huawei executives, the report said.
One goal of Shotgiant was to place backdoors on Huwei technology in order to monitor communications on network equipment acquired by the company's customers, which include U.S. allies and adversaries, according to the report.
The report in the Times does not specify how successful this was, since technical details of the operation were withheld from publication at the request of the U.S. government, according to the newspaper.
The NSA is taking pains to distinguish its surveillance activities from those of China. U.S. government and business officials claim Chinese spying activities are intended, among other things, to gain commercial advantage over the U.S.
"We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of -- or give intelligence we collect to -- U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line," the NSA said in an emailed statement Sunday.
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