Huawei Offers Australian Access To Source Code

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In a bid to settle espionage concerns, Huawei offers to open its source code and equipment for inspection down under

Huawei has attempted to calm the ongoing cyber espionage anxieties surrounding its products by offering up its source code and equipment for inspection by Australian authorities.

The Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer has also pledged to open a specialist centre in Australia to help address security concerns.

Huawei Australian inspection

Huawei currently finds itself at the centre of growing national security concerns in some parts of the world, including Australia and the United States. In Australia for example it has been banned from supplying equipment for that country’s $38bn (£24bn) national broadband infrastructure.

To address this, the company has pledged to become more transparent and said it will allow the Australians to inspect its source code and equipment.

“Huawei has done a very poor job of communicating about ourselves and we must take full responsibility for that,” the chairman of its Australian business, John Lord, was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters on Wednesday.

“Huawei has a duty to set the record straight, to dispel the myths and the misinformation.” He denied there were any grounds for governments to have national security concerns about Huawei.

Lord then outlined a proposal from Huawei, to set up a security centre in Australia to give high-level officials complete access to its source code and equipment.

This is a similar arrangement to the one in the UK, where two years ago in December 2010, Huawei established a Cyber Security Evaluation Centre. That UK centre allows for its products and software to be examined and tested by potential purchasers.

“We sincerely hope that in Australia, we do not allow sober debate on cyber security to become distorted the way it has in the US,” Lord said.

Espionage suspicions

It remains to be seen whether the Australian government will take up Huawei’s offer. But in the United States, it is clear the company still has a lot of convincing to do. On 8 October the US House Intelligence Committee issued a report saying that following a long investigation, it found Huawei and ZTE, a rival China-based telecoms company, could pose a threat to US national-security interests.

This US Committee report has also reportedly prompted Canada and Britain to rethink their working relationship with Huawei. Indeed, in July a source close to the company told TechWeekEurope that Huawei was continuing to find it difficult to sell to the British government because of the vendor’s origins and connections in China.

To counter this, the Chinese company has employed a number of influential officials in recent years. John Lord is a retired former navy Admiral for example, and in the UK, Huawei hired John Suffolk in August 2011. Suffolk was the former government CIO, and now runs global security for the company.

Huawei also recently confirmed a £1.3 billion investment in the UK.

That came when Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei met with Prime Minister David Cameron in September, and pledged £650 million for its operations in the country and another £650 million in procurement over the next five years.

Huawei has long been aware of allegations it is a stooge for the Chinese government and military, and it is a possible gateway for ongoing Chinese espionage of Western communications. The company continues to work hard to dispel these allegations.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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