Government Should Reveal Its Concerns With Huawai

March 28, 2019
1 min read
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It’s just not good enough for the Government to ban Huawei from Spark’s 5G network without spilling the beans on why, writes an exasperated PAT PILCHER.

We all know that the Government’s security and intelligence agency, the GCSB, has blocked Spark from building a 5G network using Huawei equipment, citing “security concerns”, but the spooks are staying strangely quiet on what these specific security issues actually are that caused them to ban Huawei. This might be a terrible thing indeed.

In the US, Huawei has been banned for some time. Many speculate that this is more about protecting US commercial and corporate interests as well as geopolitics. Could it be that the US do not want a Chinese monopoly on telecommunications infrastructure, especially given Huawei’s refusal to install any back doors in their equipment for 5 Eyes and Echelon intelligence gathering? Australia was also one of the first to follow the US in banning Huawei. This arguably has more to do with the fact that Australia is Trump’s tame attack poodle than anything else.

It is especially boggling that “security issues” are touted as the reason to block Huawei when Engadget has reported that South Korean security experts found a whopping 36 vulnerabilities in LTE networks. These range from the ability for third parties to disconnect someone from cellular networks through to eavesdropping on calls and hijacking 4G data. What was particularly interesting was the fact that the researchers found these vulnerabilities varied from carrier to carrier.

This is perhaps indicative of vulnerabilities in a range of network vendor equipment – not just Huawei’s – and of equal concern, possible security issues with the LTE standard itself.

Clearly, some hard questions need to get asked. The EU has already said that they are addressing security concerns around 5G without barring Huawei. They were joined by the UK’s GCHQ which has said that Huawei represents a “manageable risk”.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the lack of transparency around perceived issues with Huawei needs to be looked at in a whole new light thanks to the South Korean findings. If other “safe” equipment suppliers’ gear is also resulting in exploitable vulnerabilities then perhaps the GCSB needs to cast its ban net a little wider. Maybe they also need to be more upfront about their security concerns so that businesses can avoid taking unnecessary risks with corporate data.

If our state security/intelligence agencies are so concerned with Huawei, why has nothing more specific been said about the findings that led to their alarm, along with their ramifications? I would argue that it is high time for some clarity along with a liberal dose of some much-needed transparency, instead of the GCSB and Government hiding behind as yet unspecific “security concerns”.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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