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10/24/2012
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Huawei Proposes Security Test Center

In a bid to address regulators' security fears, Chinese telecom company Huawei wants to establish a cyber security test center in Australia.

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With Huawei facing fears in Australia, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States that its telecom equipment presents a national security risk, Huawei Australia chairman John Lord on Wednesday insisted that Huawei has been misunderstood and proposed the creation of a cyber security test center in Australia.

In March, Australia refused to allow Huawei to bid on its national broadband network because of fears the Chinese company's close ties with the Chinese government presented a potential threat to national security. Earlier this month, a report issued by a U.S. congressional committee warned that Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecom company, should not be trusted because they had failed to answer questions about their ties to Chinese authorities to the satisfaction of committee members.

Huawei and ZTE have consistently denied claims that their networking hardware might be compromised to facilitate Chinese espionage.

About a week ago, Reuters reported that it had obtained a preliminary copy of a White House-ordered review of Huawei. The report found no evidence that Huawei spied for China. Instead, it suggests that Huawei equipment presents a risk due to the presence of vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

[ Read Why Huawei Has Congress Worried. ]

Speaking at the Australian National Press Club in Canberra, Lord dismissed reports that suggested Huawei was at war with Australian national security agencies and said that the company is committed to working with the Australian government to assure that national critical infrastructure remains secure.

Toward that end, Lord said, Huawei supports the creation of a national cyber security evaluation center in Australia through which telecom equipment can be tested for risks and vulnerabilities.

Huawei has done something similar in the U.K., where it has provided product source code to British security agencies in order to supply BT with telecom gear.

As Lord sees it, security frameworks based on greater transparency are inevitable. "As information and communications technology plays an increasingly significant function in critical infrastructure projects around the world, all nations will need to take a step in this direction at some point," Lord said in prepared remarks. "In the age of globalization, no country has the ability to sustain its own isolated [information and communications technology] industry, indeed no country should. All countries must also develop security assurance frameworks to effectively analyze technology products which are globally sourced."

Lord then offered an explanation about why he believed Huawei is misunderstood. "Huawei has done a very poor job of communicating about ourselves, and we must take full responsibility for that," he said. "For the majority of Huawei's 25-year existence we have been a business-to-business company with little need to 'sell ourselves' to the general public. Only in the past few years has Huawei recognized that it must take great strides towards openness and transparency, and that is exactly what we are doing."

In an interview last week, Stewart A. Baker, a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, and former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, suggested that Huawei needed to take steps to rebuild trust in order to remove doubts about its intentions.

Lord insisted that the global nature of the supply chain made it inaccurate to label any technology "foreign" or "local," noting that mobile phones contain components from as many as two dozen countries. "The Apple iPhone wears the label 'Designed by Apple in California – Assembled in China.' So is it an American device? Is it a Chinese device? It contains a touch screen from Japan, a processor from Korea, semiconductors from Germany, and intellectual property from across the world."

Lord went on to condemn the U.S. congressional report as "protectionism, not security." And he urged Australian regulators not to get caught up in ongoing U.S.-China trade issues.

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