Home Government Tech Policy 'Anti-Huawei law' to take effect in September
'Anti-Huawei law' to take effect in September Featured

An Australian telecommunications law that takes effect in September this year has provisions to address any concerns about companies that are involved in future projects in the country.

The law has been dubbed the "anti-Huawei bill", given that the Chinese telecommunications giant appears to be the main company in its sights, the Australian Financial Review  reported.

Last week, the US warned visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to allow Huawei to supply equipment for any future 5G networks, hinting that there may be security risks involved.

Turnbull was told that Huawei's involvement in any project carried the risk of cyber espionage, and that Chinese spying was among the top two risks on the cyber security agenda of the US-Australia partnership.

Huawei is part of a working group drawn up by the Australian Department of Communications which includes other suppliers and carriers that will help to roll out 5G technology.

An indication of the level of paranoia about Huawei in the US can be gauged from the fact that the NSA hacked into the company's servers in Shenzhen in 2010, according to documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

An NSA document from the same source says: “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products", to "gain access to networks of interest” around the world.

Australia's telecommunications sector security reforms legislation, passed last September, says that "All carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries will be required to do their best to protect networks and facilities from unauthorised access and interference."

It also says, "The Attorney-General has a new directions power, to direct a carrier, carriage service provider or carriage service intermediary to do, or not do, a specified thing that is reasonably necessary to protect networks and facilities from national security risks."

The AFR quoted Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Duncan Lewis as saying: "ASIO's responsibility is to input into that process in our area of responsibility, which is the security dimension of it.

Lewis told a Senate Estimates panel: "We're paying a lot of attention, obviously, to what technology is becoming available. Quite clearly the country will need to consider how it is going to proceed, and I know that those deliberations are under way."

A Huawei deal for AT&T to sell its phones on plans was cancelled by the US company at the last minute in January.

Soon after this, Verizon was reported to have yielded to pressure from the US Government to stop selling Huawei devices.

Earlier in February, US intelligence chiefs warned against the use of Huawei equipment.

FBI chief Christopher Wray told a US Senate hearing: “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks."

The UK, which is one of the members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia, works with Huawei and recently said it would continue to do so.

But Australia denied Huawei any role in supplying equipment to the country's national broadband network project about six years ago, following advice by ASIS, one of its spy agencies.

And last year, Australia put pressure on the Solomon Islands to drop Huawei as the main contractor for an undersea cable project. The project was later awarded to the Vocus Group.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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