Tuesday, 12 March 2019 08:30

US threatens Germany: using Huawei gear will cut info sharing Featured

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US threatens Germany: using Huawei gear will cut info sharing Image by geralt on Pixabay

The US Government has threatened to withhold intelligence from Germany if Berlin uses equipment from Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei Techologies or other Chinese firms in its 5G networks.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the American envoy to Germany, Richard Grenell, had written to German Economy Minister Peter Altmeier, saying that if any Chinese vendors were allowed to supply equipment for the 5G networks in Germany, then the US would cut down on its intelligence co-operation with Berlin.

The newspaper said it had seen the letter, which was dated 8 March.

The news comes a few days after Germany announced that it was tightening security criteria for all telecommunications vendors who wish to supply gear for its 5G netyworks.

As iTWire  reported, the German rules, outlined by its Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur or BNetzA), said that equipment for all critical communications networks should be vetted by the country's cyber security watchdog, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), and undergo security checks by a BSI-approved testing body.

Berlin has been under pressure from the US for some time now to ban Huawei equipment from its 5G rollout. Washington has been pushing countries it considers allies to avoid the Chinese vendor's gear.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with the wishes of the US, but Wellington has now indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. Huawei sued the US last Thursday, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

The WSJ said that Grenell's letter said secure communications were needed for sharing defence and intelligence secrets and claimed that companies like Huawei and ZTE could compromise security.

The envoy was also said to have claimed that the code in 5G equipment would need frequent updates and was complicated to the extent that the insertion of backdoors or malware could not be ruled out. No indication was given of the technical source from which Grenell had derived this information.

Some officials in other countries have repeatedly claimed that there is no separation between the 5G core and radio access network and that this was a reason to ban Chinese equipment. Among these people are the head of the Australian Signals Directorate, Mike Burgess, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and UNSW Canberra Cyber director Nigel Phair.

This claim has been shown to be false with a 5G edge separation between the core and the radio network demonstrated in New Zealand in 2018 by the telco Spark, using Cisco evolved packet core and Huawei 5G NR and radio access network.

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came 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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