Huawei Technologies Co. has been suspended from membership in a global trade group of companies, governments and experts set up to tackle computer security breaches and share information about vulnerabilities.
The Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, called “First,” was set up in the 1990s to encourage international cooperation in addressing and preventing hacking incidents. It has grown into a sort of informal first responder to big global hacks and cybersecurity incidents. Members share information and intelligence to identify and isolate cyberattacks or vulnerabilities quickly, and disseminate information to protect against their rapid spread.
While largely working under the radar, the group’s collective expertise on security has long been valued by governments and companies. The group’s board of directors includes representatives from multinational companies including
The cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre are both members.
A spokesman for Huawei said the company wouldn’t comment on the suspension. The company has said the U.S. is “using every tool at its disposal” to disrupt its operations.
The step effectively freezes Huawei out of discussions among members of the group over matters such as software glitches. That could slow the company’s ability to patch or fix holes in its own systems. Huawei will also no longer have access to sensitive discussions within the group’s so-called Special Interest Groups. Those groups share details on cybersecurity vulnerabilities between member organizations. It also won’t be able to use an automated platform for sharing information on malware.
The trigger of Huawei’s suspension, according to a memo to members viewed by The Wall Street Journal, was legal advice provided the group following changes last month to U.S. export rules.
The group, in the email to members, said the suspension was temporary and was taken after changes to U.S. rules to restrict technology exports to Huawei. The group said there wasn’t clarity on what that covered, but that its lawyers had determined that some of the information shared on mailing lists, in its working groups and between members could fit the U.S. definition. It said it was working with U.S. officials to reinstate Huawei.
A spokesman for First said that “after extensive consultation and review, we regret ending up in a position where we had to suspend Huawei’s membership.”
Washington has repeatedly raised security concerns about Huawei’s operations, saying it can be compelled by Beijing to spy on its behalf, a charge the company has repeatedly denied. The White House has placed pressure on allies to reconsider the involvement of Huawei in delivering sensitive communications infrastructure, including 5G network rollouts around the world.
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