Czech cyber watchdog signals security threat from Huawei and ZTE

Network operators warned against using software or hardware made by Chinese firms

Huawei denied any suggestion that the company poses a threat to Czech national security. Photograph: Bloomberg

Huawei denied any suggestion that the company poses a threat to Czech national security. Photograph: Bloomberg


The Czech cyber watchdog warned network operators on Monday against using software or hardware made by Chinese telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE, saying they pose a security threat.

Huawei is the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment but faces intense scrutiny in the West over ties to the Chinese government and concerns its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations.

“China’s laws ... require private companies residing in China to co-operate with intelligence services, therefore introducing them into the key state systems [that] might present a threat,” said Dusan Navratil, director of the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NCISA).

System administrators in critical information infrastructure, whether in the state or private sector, should take “adequate measures” against the threat, said Mr Navratil.

The Czech government agency added that its warning notice was based on its findings and on those of allies.

In response, a Huawei spokesman said: “We categorically deny any suggestion that we pose a threat to national security. We call for NCISA to provide evidence instead of tarnishing Huawei’s reputation without any proof.”

A move with far-reaching consequences?

Cyber security had always been Huawei’s top priority and Huawei was a trusted partner for all the main telecom carriers in the Czech Republic, he said.

“There are no laws or regulations in China to compel Huawei, or any other company, to install ‘mandatory back doors’,” he said, a reference to US warnings that Huawei’s network gear could contain “back doors” that would allow Chinese spies to hack into critical network infrastructure.

“Huawei has never received any such request from any government and we would never agree to it,” said the spokesman.

A call to ZTE’s office in London was not answered.

Some operators have tested 5G in some locations in the Czech Republic, while the investment group PPF, which owns the leading infrastructure provider, CETIN, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to co-operate on 5G. An auction of frequencies for the 5G transmission is planned for 2019.

US government officials have been pressuring Deutsche Telekom, the majority owner of T-Mobile US, to stop using Huawei equipment, say sources.

Japan plans to ban government purchases of equipment from Huawei and ZTE to beef up its defences against intelligence leaks and cyber attacks, according to sources.

New Zealand’s intelligence agency last month rejected a telecoms provider’s request to use Huawei 5G equipment and Australia has banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment. Both countries cited national security concerns.

The arrest of a top Huawei executive in Vancouver at the request of US authorities on December 1st has sparked a diplomatic dispute. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, faces US allegations that she misled multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions. – Reuters