MIT Cuts Ties With Huawei, ZTE, Citing National Security Risk
The US government’s battle with Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE has persuaded MIT to suspend collaboration with both companies. In a letter to faculty and researchers, MIT VP for Research, Maria T. Zuber, told her colleagues that the university has instituted a new set of procedures for what it calls “elevated risk” international proposals.
The university has, according to Zuber, “determined that engagements with certain countries – currently China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – merit additional faculty and administrative review beyond the usual evaluations that all international projects receive.” As part of this new review process, MIT will not accept any new engagements with Huawei, ZTE, or subsidiaries of either company. “The Institute,” she states, “will revisit collaborations with these entities as circumstances dictate.”
The following projects will now receive additional scrutiny to ensure they conform to necessary security standards:
- Projects funded by people or entities from China (including Hong Kong), Russia and Saudi Arabia
- Projects which involve MIT faculty, staff or students conducting work in these countries
- Collaborative projects with people or entities from these countries
The Trump Administration has pursued very different actions against the two companies in question. ZTE has really only come up once, when the US Department of Commerce forbade any US company from selling products to the firm, on charges that it violated US sanctions against Iran repeatedly and deliberately. President Trump later took action to reverse this punishment, as the full weight of the sanction would have driven ZTE out of business. Since that reversal, we haven’t heard much about the company.
Huawei, in contrast, has been a topic of ongoing discussion. The UK recently released a report in which it declared it could not guarantee Huawei equipment didn’t pose a security risk, due to poor security and source code practices from the company. The US has maintained that Huawei and ZTE represent a security threat, but has not given specific details. In August, President Trump signed an executive order banning the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment in US government networks or by US government contractors. The EU, after deliberation, decided not to follow the US’s lead. EU countries will be required to share data on 5G cybersecurity risks and produce measures to mitigate said risks by the end of the year, but Huawei equipment will not be specifically banned.
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