EU report warns of 5G threat from ‘hostile’ states

2 min read
A staff member stands at the front desk of Huawei’s Cyber Security Lab in Dongguan. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

A new EU report published on Wednesday warned that “hostile third countries” may force 5G suppliers to facilitate cyberattacks serving their own national interests, but refrained from singling out China and its telecommunications equipment giant Huawei.

Why it matters: The EU report, which aims to help ensure a high level of cybersecurity across 5G networks of its member states, said a “strong link” between the supplier and government of a given third country could leave the specific hardware supplier subject to interference.

  • Such interference may stem from the fact that the third country has “no legislative or democratic checks and balances in place,” said the report.
  • Though the report didn’t name China or Huawei, it echoes a US government argument against Huawei that Beijing could use a Chinese law from 2017 to force Huawei to hand over network data to the government.

Details: The advisory report is a result of a national cybersecurity risk assessment by all EU member states, aiming to help them identify the main threats and threat actors when rolling out their 5G networks.

  • Threats posed by states or state-backed actors are perceived to be the most serious as well as the most likely actors, as they “can have the motivation, intent and most importantly the capability to conduct persistent and sophisticated attacks on the security of 5G networks.”
  • It also recommends member states to look into the ownership structure of their 5G suppliers, which is another point of contention in the US government’s allegations against Huawei.
  • Huawei said in a statement on Thursday that it welcomed the EU 5G network security risk assessment and the company was ready to work with its European partners to deliver safe networks.
  • “We are pleased to note that the EU delivered on its commitment to take an evidence-based approach, thoroughly analyzing risks rather than targeting specific countries or actors,” Huawei said.
  • The Shenzhen-based company reiterated that it is a “100% private company wholly owned by its employees.”

Context: The US has been urging European nations to exclude Huawei from their 5G network rollouts, saying its equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on their communications.

  • Some of the United States’ closest allies, such as Australia and Japan, have banned Huawei equipment from their 5G networks, but none of the EU member states have complied with President Trump’s call.
  • As of late July, Huawei has secured 50 5G commercial contracts globally, of which 28 were signed in Europe, said Chen Lifang, president of the company’s public affairs and communications department, in July.