“Perhaps, the most puzzling part of the [Belgian Intelligence Services] report is what it does not mention. Although most countries are extremely concerned about China investments in their Telecom infrastructure, the Belgian report is silent on this issue. Why, on earth, why?”
Intel Today – November 30 2018
“Given the massive cybersecurity and national security risks, the only responsible decision is for Berlin to follow the Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. lead and ban Chinese providers from the German 5G network. In doing so, Europe’s strongest economy would send a crucial signal to the rest of the European Union members that are grappling with the same decision.”
Thorsten Benner — Director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin (December 9 2018)
“The UK needs to take decision on the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies.”
MI6 chief Alex Younger (December 3 2018)
“Huawei shares with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with.”
General Michael Hayden — Former head of the U.S. National Security Agency
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from building their new 5G networks on security grounds. On Wednesday (Dec. 5), Britain’s BT Group said it would rip Huawei equipment from its core telecom network. Canada is also likely to ban Huawei. On Friday(Dec. 7), it was reported that Japan is expected to ban government use of products made by Huawei and ZTE over cybersecurity concerns. So, why on earth has Europe been silent on this critical issue for so long? What are they waiting for? I am afraid that it will all depend on Germany’s decision. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
UPDATE (December 19 2018) — On Friday (December 14 2018), France’s wireless carrier Orange announced that it would not hire the Chinese telecom giant to build its 5G network.
Orange CEO Stéphane Richard told reporters in Paris that the security concerns about Huawei are legitimate.
“I absolutely understand that all our countries and the French authorities are preoccupied [with Huawei]. We are too,” he said.
On Monday (December 17 2018), the Czech cyber watchdog warned network operators against using products made by Chinese telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE.
“China’s laws … require private companies residing in China to cooperate with intelligence services, therefore introducing them into the key state systems might present a threat,” Dusan Navratil, director of the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NCISA), said in a statement.
Germany’s Deutsche Telekom – Europe’s largest telecommunication company – said it is reviewing its relationship with Huawei.
Deutsche told Reuters in a statement: “Deutsche Telekom takes the global discussion about the security network equipment from Chinese vendors very seriously.”
END of UPDATE
Huawei rejects any suggestion that the Chinese telecom giant might pose a threat to national security.
“Cyber security should not be politicized, and equipment vendors should not be treated differently based on country of origin.”
“We categorically reject we are a threat to national security,” a spokesperson for Huawei said.
“Can anyone in the U.S., in Canada, in Belgium or anywhere else show us any proof [of backdoors]?”
Not everybody is fully convinced yet… To trust, or not to trust, Huawei is a major issue regarding the cyber security of Western countries.
As Australia’s intelligence chief has pointed out: “5G is not just fast data, it is also high-density connection of devices—human to human, human to machine and machine to machine.” 5G will carry communications we “rely on every day, from our health systems … to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply.”
5G will be the backbone of our industries and societies. “Critical infrastructure” hardly gets more critical. And the security risks are accordingly high. Wherever Chinese technology companies supply 5G infrastructure, they will have access to huge volumes of sensitive data and industrial secrets—and there’s reason to think they would eventually be forced to spy on behalf of Beijing.
The Chinese government could also use these companies to disrupt other countries’ infrastructure in a future conflict. (FP)
And yet, this important issue has received very little attention in Europe so far. The reasons are simple. Huawei has done a very good job at lobbying key politicians. And, as a rule, network operators are among Huawei’s top cheerleaders.
On December 3 2018 (Monday), MI6 chief, Alex Younger expressed concerns over Chinese technology companies being involved in the UK’s communications infrastructure.
On December 1st 2018, Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has been arrested in Vancouver, Canada. Her arrest was not revealed by the Canadian authorities until Wednesday (December 5 2018).
On Wednesday (Dec. 5 2018), BT Group announced that will remove Huawei Technologies’ equipment from its core 4G network within two years and has also excluded Huawei from bidding for contracts to supply equipment for use in its core 5G network.
On Friday (December 7 2018), two Belgian Newspapers (L’Echo and De Tijd ) revealed that the Belgium Centre for Cybersecurity [CCB] is considering the possibility of banning Huawei from Belgium.
The CCB has requested, through both national and international channels, objective studies showing that the use of Huawei technology carries risks, before being able to send out detailed advice.
Also on Friday, Japanese media reported that Japan is expected to ban government use of products made by Huawei and ZTE over cybersecurity concerns.
Huawei accounted for 28 percent of the mobile infrastructure market last year, according to IHS Markit, with Ericsson at 27 percent and Nokia on 23 percent. Fourth-placed Chinese ZTE Corp, with 13 percent, is subject to similar pressures and poorly placed to pick up the slack. The chief technology officer at Canada’s Telus has estimated that Huawei’s low-cost products have reduced global equipment prices by at least 15 percent.
Clearly, a ban of Huawei will benefits Nokia and Ericsson. On Friday (Dec. 7 2018), the shares of these company went up by 5 percent.
Who will disagree with Thorsten Benner — Director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin — when he writes:
The conclusion for Germany should be clear. If the British GCHQ, which is technically far superior to the German BSI (Federal Office for Information Security ), cannot issue a clean bill of health for Huawei, we don’t have to wait for the BSI’s own efforts.
In the future, the testing centers will be in an even worse position. Checking for possible hardware backdoors will only be a small part of the job. Virtualization (and related software) will play a central role for 5G. And with weekly software updates, infrastructure operators will have a front door to compromise systems. No testing center would be able to check weekly software updates in advance.
For good reasons, the German intelligence services, unlike the BSI, take a far more critical view of the Huawei risk. They share the Australian intelligence community’s negative assessment, which, according to anonymously sourced reports in November, is based on at least one case of Chinese intelligence agents using Huawei employees to obtain access codes for a foreign network.
Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 stipulates that “all organizations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of national intelligence work they are aware of.”
On Friday (Dec. 7 2018), European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said that Europe should be worried about Chinese telecom vendors like Huawei due to growing concerns about cybersecurity risks.
“I think we have to be worried about these companies. They have to cooperate with their intelligence services.
This is about mandatory backdoors. I was always against having those mandatory backdoors. It is about chips they can put somewhere to get our secrets.
We don’t know exactly what the reason was to arrest somebody (Huawei Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng) in Canada.
It’s not a good sign when companies have to open their systems for some kind of secret services. As normal ordinary people, of course we have to be afraid.”
According to Bloomberg, Germany’s coalition government has concerns about letting Huawei supply 5G equipment. Officials are looking at potential changes to rules or standards that would affect Huawei, but it is controversial within government.
In France, government departments are rethinking the country’s relationship with Huawei. Earlier this year Digital Affairs Minister Mounir Mahjoubi said phone carriers should work with European equipment-makers.
UPDATE (December 16 2018) — Germany’s IT watchdog has expressed scepticism about calls for a boycott of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, saying it has seen no evidence the firm could use its equipment to spy for Beijing, news weekly Spiegel reported Friday (December 14 2018).
“For such serious decisions like a ban, you need proof,” the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Arne Schoenbohm, told Spiegel, adding that his agency had no such evidence.
Schoenbohm said BSI experts had examined Huawei products and components from around the world.
They had also visited Huawei’s newly opened lab in Bonn, where German clients can inspect the firm’s cyber security measures and the software behind its products.
But some observers raised eyebrows at the BSI’s apparent dismissal of cyber security risks concerning Huawei.
“I believe it’s wrong to suggest that the concerns about Chinese espionage are unfounded and easy to detect,” telecom security expert Ronja Kniep told AFP.
“Even if Huawei has no official relationship with the Chinese government, that doesn’t mean Chinese services aren’t using the company and its technology as vehicles for espionage.”
All three of Germany’s main mobile network operators use infrastructure provided by Huawei, Spiegel pointed out.
So, How do you make sense of this madness?
Although his predecessors were physicists, mathematicians and cryptologists, Schoenbohm is the first economist in this office.
According to IT expert Sandro Gaycken, “his technical expertise is close to zero.”
Ericsson debacle exposes costs of anti-Huawei push — Reuters (Dec 7 2018)
Germany Is Soft on Chinese Spying — FP (Dec 9 2018)
5G — Will European Countries Ban Huawei?
5G — Will European Countries Ban Huawei? [UPDATE : German IT watchdog Denies Espionage Risks]
5G — Will European Countries Ban Huawei? [UPDATE : Czech cyber watchdog Calls Huawei a Security Threat]