Lithuania Seeks To Ban ‘Untrustworthy’ Smartphones Amidst China Row

Lithuania’s Defence Ministry is reportedly drafting legislation that would ban state institutions from purchasing “untrustworthy” equipment, as a row with China heats up.

The legislation would include smartphones and would be similar to a law earlier this year that blocked Chinese telecommunications equipment makers such as Huawei from contributing to Lithuania’s 5G network, a minister told Reuters.

“It’s quite obvious that consequences of the legislation would be similar to those of the earlier legislation on 5G equipment”, said Margiris Abukevicius, a deputy minister at the Defence Ministry.

The ministry aims to present the legislation to parliament for debate by the end of the year, he said.

National security

Last week Lithuania’s cyber-security agency said it found security issues with Chinese smartphones and urged users to throw away any Chinese-made handsets they may have purchased.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” Abukevicius told reporters at the time.

The Lithuanian National Cyber Security Centre said it found problems with two of the handsets it analysed, saying Huawei’s P40 5G was vulnerable to cyber-attacks because of the use of third-party app stores and that Xiaomi’s popular Mi 10T 5G included built-in censorship tools.

The tools were turned off by default for the “European Union region” but could be turned back on remotely at any time, the agency said.

Diplomatic row

Xiaomi said in a statement the device “does not censor communications to or from its users”.

In May Huawei protested after the Lithuanian parliament said the country’s 5G network would only use equipment that had been approved on national security grounds.

Abukevicius said Lithuania had made “a political decision to cooperate in technology with NATO and EU countries”, many of which, including the UK, have also banned Chinese 5G equipment under pressure from the US.

The Lithuanian cyber agency said Xiaomi’s phone could censor terms such as “Free Tibet”, “Long live Taiwan independence” and “democracy movement”.

Lithuania is embroiled in a broader row with China over its relations with Taiwan, which led China to demand Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Beijing in August.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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