China syndromeNagging security concerns over using Huawei’s tech in Europe

Published 3 April 2019

New report urges NATO members to look to emulate Britain, which created an entire government office to scrutinize Huawei’s products for security problems.

A recent research paper published by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) takes a look at the cyber security debate around Huawei as the potential supplier of 5G technology for next generation wireless networks. It considers the strategic and legal issues raised by potential reliance on Chinese technology in the rollout of 5G, explore the national responses, and offer recommendations for a common approach.

CCDCOE notes that it does not speak on behalf of NATO.

The paper Huawei, 5G, and China as a Security Threat, written by Kadri Kaska, Henrik Beckvard and Tomáš Minárik, researchers at the CCDCOE, recognizes that it is rational to demand the highest possible security assurance from 5G technology used for critical communication. The pursuit for technological innovation is accompanied by concerns about cybersecurity with implications to a broader national security context. Possible loss or interruption of availability, integrity or confidentiality in critical networks could have a significant adverse effect on society.

Many countries have expressed their concerns about the potential consequences of ties between Chinese communications technology companies and its intelligence services, reinforced by China’s political and legal environment requiring cooperation with intelligence agencies. Accordingly, 5G rollout needs to be recognized as a strategic rather than merely a technological choice.

The authors claim that viable alternatives to Huawei technology are necessary to preserve flexibility of choice and to prevent being trapped with one supplier without a way out. Solid accountability, transparency, and risk mitigation mechanisms are the essential minimum in order to benefit from the socioeconomic benefit of 5G without jeopardizing national security. To this end, R&D investment and strengthening regional industry are not purely issues of global competitiveness, but should also be considered – and more importantly, pursued – for their security dimension.

— Read more in Kadri Kaska et al., Huawei, 5G, and China as a Security Threat (CCDCOE, 2019)