New concern over Chinese spy capabilities in Western Nebraska cell tower equipment

Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 6:49 PM CST
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A U.S. National Security Advisor is telling the world a Chinese company can secretly tap into communications through the equipment it sells. Six news has learned a number of Nebraska cellphone towers carry the equipment.

The news of the Chinese company's capabilities comes on the heels of the White House urging its allies to ban the equipment from the next generation of cellular networks. That raises eyebrows since many networks in the

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is already banned from bidding on government contracts.

Nebraska no longer funds Huawei's equipment and is actively trying to get rid of what's already in the state.

Crystal Rhoades, Nebraska Public Service Commission said, "I think the urgency on this has definitely been dialed up."

Crystal Rhoades with the Nebraska Public Service Commission understood the potential for spying on our cell towers but did not know until yesterday, the United States is telling our allies that Huawei can secretly tap into communications on its equipment using the back door built-in and reserved for law-enforcement for wire-tapping.

"We have to protect our communications system from foreign interference," said Rhoades.

Nebraska has identified 18 towers with Huawei equipment, most of them in western Nebraska.

Huawei's equipment is often cheaper in price than competitors.

The company denies the allegations, saying it doesn't have the capability to use the backdoor on the network.

Nebraska senator Ben Sasse isn't buying it.

"Trusted tech comes from trusted suppliers, and Huawei can't be trusted. Huawei is the Chinese Communist Party's puppet,” said Sasse.

Since some of the towers are near Nebraska missile silos, security experts worry it's a way to spy on our military installations.

Crystal Rhoades said, "When you start to get into the public safety network, in the event they wanted to attack us -- having those systems compromised would be extremely problematic. It's also a threat to our economic stability."

The U.S. House has set aside a billion dollars to help cover the cost of replacing some of the Huawei equipment, but the bill has yet to get out of the U.S. senate.

It's not clear what it will cost to change the cell tower equipment in Nebraska.