[LINK] NBN security?
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue Oct 19 16:49:38 EST 2010
Spy fears as Chinese firm eyes NBN deal
by Maris Beck, October 17, 2010
SECURITY experts are alarmed that a company with links to the Chinese
military is bidding to supply equipment to the national broadband
network, warning that the equipment could be used to spy or launch cyber
attacks on Australian governments and businesses.
The United States' National Security Agency intervened to block Huawei
Technologies' bids to supply equipment to AT&T last year, threatening to
withdraw government business if Huawei was chosen, The Washington Post
The company also has faced opposition from Indian and British
intelligence agencies and Australian security experts are voicing similar
concerns as Huawei seeks a slice of the $43 billion broadband roll-out.
As the rate of cyber attacks on Australian interests intensifies, an
intelligence expert at the Australian National University's Strategic and
Defence Studies Centre, Desmond Ball, said he didn't want to sound
alarmist ''but this is the highest order risk that I would see with
regard to network vulnerability''.
Bids by Huawei ''would have to be subject to the closest scrutiny, but in
the end it would be the government's responsibility to reject such an
He said the cyber security debate focused on malicious software but more
attention should be paid to hardware, which could carry digital
Professor Ball said even the most secure cable systems were vulnerable.
Over the next decade, he said, the US-China relationship would become the
most likely source of major international conflict and Australia was a
key ally of the US.
Retired air commodore Gary Waters, a former senior official in the
Defence Department who now works for consultancy firm Jacobs Australia,
said the government appeared not to be taking cyber security seriously
enough. ''The threat is increasing and I think this is one of those
threats,'' he said, adding that an independent private-sector audit would
be required of any foreign company ''where alarm bells could sound on
Alan Dupont, director of the Centre for International Security Studies at
the University of Sydney, called for a robust discussion of the NBN's
security risks, saying: ''This is the critical piece of infrastructure
that is going to go down over the next 30 or 40 years
there needs to be
a broader discussion of the national security implications.''
The executive director of national security policy at Verizon in
Washington, DC, Marcus Sachs, said malicious software was easy to hide in
hardware and any risk assessment should focus on how much a company could
Huawei lost a bid to supply the NBN's ethernet aggregation equipment and
the gigabit passive optical network in June. The contract went to Alcatel-
Lucent, a French company.
Huawei, the world's second-largest telecommunications network provider,
is believed to be preparing bids to supply almost all the equipment the
NBN needs. Former Victorian minister Theo Theophanous is lobbying
Canberra on Huawei's behalf.
Huawei emphasises that it is privately owned and has released details
that show its employees own its shares. But links with the military are
persistently reported. According to The New York Times, Huawei's founder
and chief executive, Ren Zhengfei, was an officer in the People's
Liberation Army. China analysts say loan credits from China Construction
Bank, which were granted to small companies that wanted to buy Huawei
equipment, were not necessarily repaid.
Jeremy Mitchell, public affairs director for Huawei Australia, denied the
company was linked to the Chinese government.
He said Huawei guaranteed that its equipment was safe. Despite
intelligence resistance, Huawei has supplied equipment to British
Telecom. He said Optus and Telstra already used Huawei's equipment and
about 50 per cent of Australians relied on it. A spokeswoman for
Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy said the government would
ensure that ''national security and resilience issues are addressed in
the design and operation of the NBN''.
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