Australia follows US in Huawei ban, move comes a month after UK also raised concerns
Australia has banned Chinese telecoms behemoth Huawei from supplying equipment for the country’s 5G network, citing new guidance from security agencies.
National security regulations that already apply to telecom carriers will now be extended to equipment suppliers too, Canberra said, without explicitly naming Huawei.
Huawei Australia Restrictions
Reuters reported unnamed officials as saying the order was aimed squarely at Huawei.
Firms “who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” would leave the nation’s network vulnerable to unauthorized access or interference, and presented a security risk, a statement emailed by the Australian government to the wire agency added.
Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law (国家情报法), released in June 2017, calls on companies to support intelligence gathering operations.
It reads: “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. The state will protect individuals and organizations that support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work.’”
UK Concerns Growing
The move follows a US decision to restrict Huawei and fellow Chinese conglomerate ZTE from its market for similar reasons.
Last month, as reported by Computer Business Review, the UK, which has thus far taken a more relaxed approach, warned that “critical shortfalls” in the security of Huawei equipment posed a potential cybersecurity risk to the UK’s critical national infrastructure.
A special body set up to oversee Huawei’s involvement in UK networks, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), the oversight board of which is chaired by NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin, said it can offer only “limited [security] assurance due to the lack of the required end-to-end traceability from source code examined by HCSEC through to executables use by the UK operators”.
“Bipolar” View of China
Cyberreason’s Ross Rustici told Computer Business Review: “On the one hand you have a lot of advocates for a liberal trade agenda with China from a self interest and international order standpoint. They seek to incorporate China as a trading partner and rope it into existing trade and governance practices as a potential consumer and a way to have a positive macroeconomic effect on a country’s average household purchasing power.”
“Diametrically opposed to this viewpoint are those that condemn China as a communist regime that is seeking to reshape the world in its prefered image and must be challenged if not contained at every opportunity. Unfortunately, both of these views are held by people actively shaping international policy in just about every government in the Five Eyes community. What is worse is neither camp is entirely wrong. China is seeking to create a global regime that is more friendly to its interests but it is also not a completely revisionist power and has sought to maintain significant trade with most of the world.”
“A Paper Mache Wall”
He added: “The larger question is does it matter? Given global supply chains and the amount of electronics that flow through China in some shape or form keeping Huawei out is a bit like building a paper mache wall. The optics look good in the press, but the fundamental concern of backdoored products still exists.”
“The Chinese intelligence services have proven incredibly resourceful in gaining access to the targets they want and having the effects they need. Huawei may make the job easier but it is also self harming if a major cyber attack or intrusion is shown to be conducted by the Chinese through Huawei gear. Yes, depending on Chinese gear is a concern for any country that goes that direction. But, there are so many ways to compromise a network and a supply chain that I don’t see it substantially increasing the threat in the short run. In the long run it has the potential to be an institutionalized problem, but one that is manageable if handled correctly.”