Chinese networking giant Huawei hit out at the US National Security Agency (NSA) this weekend following claims that the organisation hacked into its email servers five years ago.
The claims, published by The New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday, citing documents leaked by former US security contractor Edward Snowden, suggest that the NSA obtained sensitive data and monitored Huawei executives' email communications, including those of Huawei founder and ex-military officer, Ren Zhengfei.
"If the actions in the report are true, Huawei condemns such activities that invaded and infiltrated into our internal corporate network and monitored our communications," Huawei's global cyber security officer, John Suffolk, told Reuters.
"Corporate networks are under constant probe and attack from different sources - such is the status quo in today's digital age," said Suffolk, defending Huawei's independence and security record.
One goal of the NSA’s alleged spying, carried out under the codename “Shotgiant”, was to uncover any connections between Huawei and the Chinese People's Liberation Army, according to The New York Times, which also revealed that the NSA wanted to exploit Huawei's technology and conduct surveillance through computer and telephone networks Huawei sold to other nations.
The operation, which Der Spiegel claims was coordinated with the CIA, FBI and White House officials, saw the NSA obtain source codes for Huawei products, which include giant routers and complex digital switches that connect a third of the world's people, according to Huawei.
Der Spiegel added the NSA obtained a list of more than 1,400 Huawei clients and internal training documents for engineers.
It said the agency was contemplating an attack on the Chinese government, with former prime minister Hu Jintao and Chinese trade and foreign ministers as possible targets.
In response to the Der Spiegel report, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Associated Press the agency doesn't comment on specific alleged activities, reiterating the NSA's position that its activities are aimed only at "valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements."
The US has openly refused to do business with the Chinese company over fears that it is building backdoors into its equipment that could be used by the Chinese government to spy on US communications. Huawei strongly denies these allegations.
US officials deny the NSA spies on foreign companies to give US firms a competitive advantage but they admit that the agency may collect data on firms outside the US while assessing the economic prospects or stability of other countries.
Huawei, founded in 1987, kept the majority of its business operations behind closed doors for much of its existence but today it is aiming to be more open.
"We want to be open and transparent and have people to understand who we are," said Huawei's head of international media affairs, Scott Sykes, in Hong Kong last October. "This is a huge change from three or four years ago."