Canada’s cyber officials had previously said it was not necessary to put a ban on Huawei’s gear for 5G networks
The inclusion of Huawei technology in Canadian carriers’ 5G network infrastructure would pose a risk to the U.S., a senior American senator said during a recent interview with CBC News.
“There are no two countries that are closer connected than the United States and Canada,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who, along with Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), has been urging Canada to rethink Chinese equipment vendors’ role in the country’s future 5G telecom networks. “Our telecom networks are totally meshed together and if there was a vulnerability in the Canadian system, it would make America vulnerable. And vice-versa.”
The lawmaker said that Chinese vendors are directly influenced by the Chinese government. “The government and the communist party have the ability to influence their capabilities.”
“My specific concerns are particularly as we move into the next generation of wireless — the so-called 5G networks — that if a country were to purchase this equipment, it might have built-in backdoors so that, down the line, once the equipment was installed, the Chinese could intercept messages, communications and violate the security of the networks,” Warner said.
However, Huawei denied Warner’s claims, saying the senator was “100 per cent mistaken.”
“Huawei neither could, as a matter of technological or legal practicality, nor would as a matter of ethical business conduct, attempt what he is wrongly suggesting,” said Robert Backhouse, Huawei Canada’s CTO. “Huawei cannot directly upload or upgrade any software into a Canadian network — this can only be done working with Canadian operators,” the executive said. “For more than 10 years now, we have welcomed any test or scrutiny that the government and its security establishment may seek. Our top priority is the security and integrity of the information and privacy of Canadians.”
The claims by Warner encapsulate many of the national security concerns echoed globally.
In October, Warner and Rubio sent a letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to bar Chinese vendor Huawei from Canada’s 5G mobile network over security allegations. Rubio and Warner, who is vice-chair of the intelligence committee, said that allowing Huawei into Canada’s 5G wireless infrastructure network could interfere with intelligence sharing between key allies and impair cross-border co-operation in telecommunications between U.S. and Canadian firms.
However, Canadian cyber officials believe that the country has enough protection measures in place in order to deal with potential risks of hacking or spying from China.
Scott Jones, head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, told government officials that the country’s facilities for testing Huawei’s equipment and software were superior to Canada’s allies and should be able to prevent security breaches.
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