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Huawei calls hackers to Munich for secret bug bounty meeting

Zack Whittaker
Huawei smartphones are displayed at a Huawei store in Beijing on August 7, 2018. - Despite being essentially barred from the critical US market, Huawei surpassed Apple to become the world's number two smartphone maker in the second quarter of this year and has market leader Samsung in its sights. Huawei has achieved this in part by refocusing away from the futile fight for US access and toward gobbling up market share in developing nations with its moderately priced but increasingly sophisticated phones, analysts said. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP) / TO GO WITH China-telecommunication-Huawei-mobile-Samsung-Apple,FOCUS by Dan Martin (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese tech giant Huawei has asked some of the world's best phone hackers to a secret meeting in Munich later this month as the company tries to curry favor with global governments, TechCrunch has learned.

Sources with knowledge of the November 16 meeting said Huawei will privately present its new bug bounty program, which would allow researchers to get financial rewards for submitting security vulnerabilities. The sources said the bug bounty will be focused on past and future mobile devices, as well as its new mobile operating system, HarmonyOS, Huawei's Android competitor.

Other phone makers, including Apple, Google and Samsung, also have bug bounties.

The move comes at a time of increased pressure on Huawei over its links to the Chinese government. Huawei has denied U.S.-led claims that it could be forced to spy on behalf of Beijing. But that hasn't stopped the federal government from imposing sanctions and obstacles from operating in the United States. That pressure has led companies like Google from pulling its support for Android, which Huawei relies on for its phones, prompting the tech giant to find or build alternatives.

One source described the event as similar to a secret meeting hosted by Apple in August, in which the tech giant handed its most prized security researchers special "dev" iPhones to hack and find security weaknesses.

The source said that Huawei's bug bounty meeting was likely a way to show governments that it's willing to work with hackers and security researchers to bolster the security of its products.

Huawei, which also makes networking equipment for telecom networks, came under fire by U.K. authorities earlier this year for failing to address "serious and systematic defects" in its software at a time it's trying to prove its technologies do not pose a national security threat.

Chase Skinner, a spokesperson for Huawei, did not respond to a request for comment.

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