Wednesday, 24 October 2018

We need to talk about 'national security'

By Chris Kelly, Total Telecom
Friday 28 September 18

As governments around the world continue to site concerns over national security as a reason to bar Huawei from their 5G rollout programmes, we ask are they really just trying to stall China's biggest tech provider?

National security – it's a tricky subject. With 5G poised to penetrate every aspect of our daily lives in the not so distant future, network security is now arguably more important than ever before. Despite this fact, the industry also has a responsibility to ensure that it is being fair and even handed in its dealings – and, more poignantly, that it isn’t being taken for a ride on the subject. If a company is deemed to be a "…

National security – it's a tricky subject. With 5G poised to penetrate every aspect of our daily lives in the not so distant future, network security is now arguably more important than ever before.

Despite this fact, the industry also has a responsibility to ensure that it is being fair and even handed in its dealings – and, more poignantly, that it isn’t being taken for a ride on the subject. If a company is deemed to be a "risk to national security", we should be asking how and why?  The old maxim of 'innocent until proven guilty' must prevail.

With every passing month another country steps out of the shadows to voice its concerns over the threat Huawei's mobile network infrastructure poses to its national security.

Dutifully taking their lead from the US, the UK and Australian governments have both raised concerns in recent months, without deigning to provide evidence of wrong doing by the Chinese tech giant or substantiate their claims in any way shape or form. In the absence of a smoking gun, it is hard to know exactly what Huawei has done to incur the ire of the Western superpowers.

The longer this spurious game of follow the leader goes on, the harder it becomes to see the Huawei-bashing as anything other than a cynical and calculated jostling for position in the US' protracted trade war with China.

While it is understandable that network security is at the top of every country's list of priorities, the special scrutiny that is being meted out to Huawei smacks of double standards.

Network security is clearly a very complex subject and one that rightly commands stringent regulation, but let's have some consistency!   

Amid this backdrop of subterfuge and muck flinging, it seems sensible to suggest that the international telecoms community should get on the same page and define exactly what it means by the term a "threat to national security".   

This is precisely what Huawei's chief security officer in the US, Andy Purdy, suggested at the International Cyber Security Week in Singapore. Taking part in a lively interview at the show, Purdy said that government's and regulators alike must come together to define universal standards for network security, providing kit makers with a clear framework within which to work.

“[we need] an open, objective, and transparent basis for trust, so that the users can trust it, the government can trust it, and the vendors can know what the requirements are,” he said.

“The more clarity we get, the more likely we’ll be able to say at some point that – these things are necessary and that we can do them, and that we can show that we can do them,” said Purdy.

Really, the telecoms industry needs to heed this advice and start working with Huawei, rather than against it. Can it really afford to exclude one of the world's biggest technology manufacturers merely to help the US gain some leverage in its trade deals?

If we are going to use the issue of national security as the acid test for eligibility to participate in the 5G process, lets at least be clear on what the term means.   

 

As the debate around network security continues to rage, why not join us at Total Telecom Congress 2018, where I will be hosting a round table on Securing Next Generation Networks with a panel of distinguished industry experts. Click here for more information.   

 

Friday Review  -  28/09/2018

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