Aussie Spy Chief: Some 5G suppliers must be excluded due to risk

Australia’s spy chief has offered some deeper insight on why some companies are banned from participating in the nation's 5G networks.

The crux of it is the long-standing concerns that some companies, particularly those originating from China, are controlled by their nation’s government. One company which has often faced (and denied) these allegations is Huawei.

Huawei has bore the brunt of the security concerns as China’s largest telecoms vendor. The narrative has been led by the US where Huawei has long been excluded from participating in national communication networks.

Mike Burgess, Director of the Australian Signals Directorate, said:

"5G technology will underpin the communications that Australians rely on every day, from our health systems and the potential applications of remote surgery, to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply.”

The US has been attempting to convince other partners in the ‘Five Eyes’ security relationship to ban Chinese telecoms firms such as Huawei over fears a compromised network of one member could threaten others.

“A potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network," says Burgess.

Canada and the UK have thus far resisted calls to ban Huawei’s equipment and instead claim they’re able to mitigate the risks by having their security agencies inspect hardware prior to use in national infrastructure.

Scott Jones, Head of Ottawa’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, said:

“We have a very advanced relationship with our telecommunications providers, something that is different from most other countries from what I have seen.

We have a program that is very deep in terms of working on increasing that broader resilience piece especially as we are looking at the next-generation telecommunications networks."

Jones believes excluding telecoms equipment manufacturers leads to an increased security risk as it reduces the number used. If a specific vendor’s equipment is compromised, it would represent a larger proportion of the network.

When vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson have their own links to China’s Communist Party, it seems more sensible to test – rather than ban – all equipment in critical infrastructure.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam to learn more.

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