Huawei: "Political" 5G security challenges are difficult to solve

Huawei reaffirmed its belief that telecommunications security is an industry issue that can be addressed if it is seen as a technological issue rather than a political one.

The beleaguered Chinese firm was effectively barred from entering the US on national security grounds and Washington has urged its allies to follow suit - though without providing any evidence to support its claims.

Europe is an important market for Huawei and mobile operators are opposed to any measure that would limit their access to the company's radio kit, fearing it would increase costs and reduce innovation.

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Huawei Security 5G

“Basically, security is a technical issue, so if we can look at it from a technological point of view, then this is something that we can solve,” Yang added. “If you look at security as a political issue and judge suppliers by country of origin, it’s hard to decide.”

So far, no European nation has followed suit. And while the EU has suggested that equipment coming from outside the bloc may be more susceptible to nation state interference, it did not specify any vendors or countries in its advice to member states.

When asked whether Huawei believes that external pressure is easing, the company's head of 5G product line Chaobin Yang is not to events, but specifically, only that the company is committed to the European market.

“We have been working with our European partners for many years – ever since in the 3G era,” Huawei's global mobile broadband forum told reporters in Zurich.

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“We have had many years of good cooperation and half of our 60 5g contracts are from Europe. We see [our relationship] continuing with 5G. As a supplier, our priority is to provide customers with good equipment.”

The UK is among those considering Huawei's role in its telecommunications infrastructure as part of a broader review. The publication is expected in the spring and the leaks that led to the departure of Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that Huawei would be banned from the core 5G infrastructure layer, but not the radio element. This would help maintain the status quo.

However, the question of how much politics is about technology is complicated by the change in prime minister. The wider review was published earlier this year, but without a final decision on Huawei.

Industry approach

One of the reasons that Huawei's kit verification has increased is because 5G networks will allow the transfer of more sensitive data and mission-critical applications that require a constant connection. This means that mobile networks are becoming increasingly attractive to attackers seeking to steal data and disrupt communications infrastructure.

Huawei believes that the security issue should be treated as an industry issue, in which the entire account ecosystem should play a role. He wants guidelines set by the GSMA and the 3GPP standard level to provide guarantees across all mobile technologies.

“When information is transferred from one user to another, it goes through many stages from the base station, router, server, network core and applications,” Yang explained. “For end-to-end security to be met, it is noted that things can go wrong at any stage. Therefore, end-to-end security can only be achieved if all players from different steps can work together.

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“We think the EU GDPR is a good thing because it gives the big players in the ecosystem a direction to focus on [privacy]. It would be the same for us with security. A clear standard will give the major players something to give back, fulfill their responsibilities to ensure safety and promote industry safety standards.”

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