The New York Times and the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, reported that the U.S. National Security Agency has broken into the secure networks of Chinese telecom and internet giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world and is based in Shenzhen in Guangdong province.
The NSA is said to have accessed Huawei's email archive; communication between top company official internal documents and the secret source code of individual Huawei products. The operation that did this went by the code name "Operation Shotgiant."
"We currently have good access and so much data that we don't know what to do with it," said an internal NSA document cited by Der Spiegel.
Huawei has long been eyed by Washington as a potential security "Trojan Horse" due to its suspected close links to the communist Chinese government. Huawei denies the charges, however. The U.S. and Australia have barred Huawei from taking part in broadband projects over espionage fears.
Operation Shotgiant first sought to find links between Huawei and the Chinese military. It was then tasked with learning how to penetrate Huawei's computer and telephone networks sold to third countries.
"We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products," the NSA document said, to "gain access to networks of interest" around the world.
A senior U.S. intelligence official who asked to remain anonymous said the fact that U.S. targets foreign companies for intelligence is not part of any economic espionage. He noted that the goal of economic intelligence efforts is to support national security interests, and not to try to help Boeing.