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Canada Reviews Huawei, ZTE Telecom Gear Security Risks Amid 5G Network Deployments

Count Canada as the latest in the line of countries exploring the security of China’s telecommunications equipment rivals Huawei and ZTE.

Last April, the U.S. barred federally subsidized telecommunications carriers from using suppliers that potentially threatened national security, namely Huawei and ZTE. Four months later, Australia followed suit when it prohibited both giants from supplying technology for the country’s developing 5G network.

Now Canada is conducting a government-wide national security review in a move to limit its cyber risk from equipment made by foreign telecommunications companies. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed the study but declined to provide any details, the Toronto Globe and Mail has reported. Late last month, Goodale huddled with Australian officials, perhaps to learn about potential risk from engaging with Huawei and ZTE, the report said.

“We had the opportunity to hear from Australia in terms of its decision and the decision-making process that is under way in a great many countries,” Goodale told The Globe. “That was useful information from Canada’s point of view, and we are making sure we have the analysis and ultimately the set of decisions that will keep Canadians safe.”

Apparently, Canada has been looking at this issue for quite some time, the media outlet reported. Earlier this month, Canada’s cybersecurity Communications Security Establishment told The Globe that it has been conducting security tests on Huawei equipment sold in the country since 2013.

To say the least, it will be interesting to see what comes from Canada’s report. As more mobile 5G networks are built out, will “a great many countries,” including the obvious candidates, the U.K. and New Zealand, consider similar investigations, as Goodale suggested? Indeed, when asked whether Ottawa is considering following the leads of the U.S. and Australia, Goodale told The Globe that “nothing is left out” of the security analysis.

Other than another potential government rejection of Huawei and ZTE (Note: In late July, U.S. lawmakers backing down on threats to reinstate harsh penalties on ZTE for violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea), missing out on supplying parts for the necessary infrastructure to deliver 5G technology would carve a big divot in the Chinese companies’ foreign engagements.

On the other hand, despite Huawei’s and ZTE’s denials that they pose risks to the national security of the U.S. or Australia — with Canada as yet undetermined — there remains the little detail of involvement at some level with China’s ruling party.

Canada Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

“We are examining the issue of security in relation to supply chains right across the government very carefully. It is a topic that many countries – our allies in particular – are taking a very close look at and have been for a considerable length of time,” Goodale said. “We have not arrived at those decisions yet, but obviously we are very sensitive to the issue.”

Who else might deny Huawei and ZTE? (via The Globe)

  • Japan is considering whether additional regulations will limit “security risks from using network equipment from Chinese companies,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Huawei reportedly has been excluded from the Indian government’s list of partner companies for 5G trials, according to the Economic Times of India.
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