Huawei banned from Australia’s 5G networks over spying fears

Image credit: reuters

Huawei has been banned from providing 5G equipment to Australian telecommunication firms in the latest rejection of the Chinese firm by the country over cyber-security fears.

Western governments have repeatedly accused Huawei of having strong links with the Chinese Government and allegations have even been raised that the company builds backdoors into some of its networking equipment to allow unauthorised access by the Chinese government and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

However, no evidence to support the allegations has surfaced thus far.

The latest move by Australia, following advice from security agencies, signals a hardening of that country’s stance toward its biggest trading partner, as relations have soured over Canberra’s allegations of Chinese meddling in Australian politics.

It also brings Australia in line with the United States, which has restricted Huawei and compatriot ZTE from its lucrative market for similar reasons.

In January, Australia banned the installation of a new 4500km undersea cable designed to connect the Solomons and Papua New Guinea to Sydney.

The government said that national security regulations typically applied to telecom carriers would now be extended to equipment suppliers.

Firms “who are likely to be subject to extra-judicial directions from a foreign government” would leave the nation’s network vulnerable to unauthorised access or interference and presented a security risk, the statement said.

It did not identify the Chinese firm, but an Australian government official said the order was aimed at Huawei and precluded its involvement in the network.

Huawei’s Australian arm, which strenuously denies it is controlled by Beijing, said on Twitter on Thursday that the action was an “extremely disappointing result for consumers”.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China expressed “serious concern”, adding that Australia should not “use various excuses to artificially erect barriers and conduct discriminatory practices”.

“We urge the Australian government to abandon ideological prejudices and provide a fair competitive environment for Chinese companies’ operations in Australia,” Lu said at a daily news briefing.

Chinese law requires organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with intelligence work, which analysts say can make Huawei’s equipment a conduit for espionage.

“That’s what you get when you have the aligned strategy of a Chinese company with the Chinese government,” said John Watters, executive vice president of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc.

“(Australia) basically made a decision to spend more money to have more control over their national communication system, because they’re up against a competitor that will sacrifice near-term margin for long-term intelligence advantage.”

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