Europe Should Be Worried About Huawei, Says EU Tech Commissioner

December 8, 2018 Updated: December 9, 2018

Europe should be wary of telecommunications company Huawei and other Chinese technology companies, says European Union’s technology chief, echoing cybersecurity concerns raised in other parts of the world.

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip told reporters at a press conference on Dec. 7 that these companies have to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) intelligence services by placing backdoor services in their products, which can be used for espionage.

“I was always against having those mandatory backdoors,” said Ansip, who is also the European Commissioner for digital single market. “[It is] about chips they can put somewhere to get our secrets. 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,” he added.

Ansip comments come days after Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested on fraud charges in Canada. Meng is accused of concealing Huawei’s relationship with Hong Kong-based company Skycom, which allegedly did business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Prosecutors alleged that Skycom was effectively controlled by Huawei, according to Meng’s bail hearing on Dec. 7.

Huawei responded to Ansip’s statement on Dec. 7, calling the comments a “misunderstanding.”

The telecom company said in a statement, “Singling out one vendor does nothing to help the industry identify and address cybersecurity threats more effectively.”

Huawei also said that it had never been asked by “any government to build any backdoors or interrupt any networks.”

Global Cybersecurity Risk

For years, intelligence agencies in the west have raised concerns about Huawei’s connections to the CCP and the possibility that its equipment could be used for CCP spying.

In November, The Weekend Australian cited an Australian national security source who said that Australia has evidence that Huawei company officials were pressured to disclose access codes and network details needed by CCP intelligence services to infiltrate a foreign network, according to secret intelligence reports.

The Australian reported that it remains unclear if the attempted cyber hack, that occurred only within the last two years, was successful.

The case provides the first known evidence that supports the long-held suspicions that Huawei poses a risk to the cyber security of sovereign nations because it is answerable to the CCP—particularly since China passed it National Intelligence Law last year. Under the new law, Chinese citizens and organizations are expected to cooperate with their state intelligence services as required.

Huawei is the world’s largest maker of telecommunications network equipment and the No. 3 smartphone supplier. Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the company, was a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He continues to run the company today.

The United States and Australia have already shut out Huawei from their 5G networks. Similarly, New Zealand refused a telecom’s company’s request to use Huawei technology in its 5G network last month.

UK’s BT Group said this month that it would remove Huawei equipment from its 3G and 4G mobile operations, and will not be using Huawei technology in its 5G network. The chief of UK’s foreign intelligence services said in a rare speech on Dec. 3 that Britain needs to review its 5G network reliance on Chinese technology without mentioning Huawei.

Meanwhile, Canada’s head of intelligence agency has expressed concerns about the security of the country’s emerging 5G network and other technology infrastructure, saying foreign interference and espionage are the biggest threats to the country’s national interest.

Japan is also planning to ban government purchases of Huawei equipment, according to reports on Dec. 7

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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