5 G kit manufacturer Huawei opened a Cyber Security Transparency Center in Brussels, the Chinese tech giant continues to attempt to neutralize the suspicion in Western markets that the Chinese state could use its networking gear to spy.
Huawei announced last year its plan to open a European transparency center, but Ken Hu, rotating CEO of the company, said yesterday at an opening ceremony for the center: “Looking at the events of the past few months, it is clear that this facility is now more critical than ever.”
Huawei said the center, which will demonstrate the security solutions of the company in areas including 5 G, IoT and cloud, aims to provide a platform for improving communication and ‘ joint innovation ‘ with all stakeholders, as well as providing our customers with a ‘ technical verification and evaluation platform. ‘
“Huawei will work with industry partners to explore and promote the development of safety standards and verification mechanisms to facilitate industry – wide technological innovation in cyber security,” he said in a press release.
“We need to work together to build a trustworthy environment,” Hu said in his speech as well. “This confidence and distrust should be based on facts, not on feelings, not on speculation, and not on baseless rumors.
“We believe facts need to be verifiable, and standards need to be used for verification. To begin with, we need to work on unified standards together. Based on a common set of standards, the foundation for building trust can be laid for technical verification and legal verification. This must be a collaborative effort because it can not be done by any single vendor, government or telco operator alone.
At last week’s Mobile World Congress, the company made a similar plea when its rotating chairman, Guo Ping, used a keynote speech to claim that his kit is safe and never will contain backdoors. He also urged the telco industry to work together to create trust – enabling standards and structures.
“Government and mobile operators should work together to come to an agreement on what this European assurance test and certification rating will be,” he urged. “Let experts decide whether or not networks are safe.”
Speaking at last week’s MWC, EC’s digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel also suggested that the executive be prepared to take steps to prevent security concerns at EU Member State level from fragmenting 5 G rollouts across the single market.
At the flagship industry conference, she told delegates that Europe must have “a common approach to this challenge” and “we must bring it to the table in the near future.”
Although she did not exactly suggest how the Commission could act.
A Commission spokesman confirmed that yesterday EC VP Andrus Ansip and Huawei’s Hu met in person to discuss issues related to cybersecurity, 5 G and the Digital Single Market — adding that the meeting took place at Hu’s
“The Vice-President stressed that the EU is a market based on open rules for all players that comply with EU rules,” the spokesman told us. “Specific concerns should be addressed by European citizens. We have rules that address security issues in place. We have EU procurement rules in place, and to protect European interests, we have the investment screening proposal.
“The VP also mentioned the need for reciprocity in the respective market openness,” he added, adding: “Today, the College of the European Commission will be holding an orientation discussion on China where this issue will return.”
Ansip also said in a tweet following the meeting: “Agree that understanding local security concerns, being open and transparent, and working with countries and regulators would be prerequisites for increasing confidence in 5 G security.”
Reuters reports Hu said the pair had discussed the possibility of establishing a cybersecurity standard along the lines of the updated European privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Although when we asked him to confirm that point of discussion, the Commission did not respond.
GDPR has been in the making for several years and before the final text that could come into force had been agreed by the European institutions. So if the Commission is willing to act “soon”— according to Gabriel’s comments on 5 G security — a full blown regulation seems like an unlikely template to fashion supportive guardrails for next-gen network deployments.
Huawei is more likely to use GDPR as a byword to build consensus around rules that work across a multi – player ecosystem by providing standards that can be latched on by different businesses in an effort to keep moving.
In his speech yesterday, Hu referenced GDPR directly, lauding it as “a shining example” of Europe’s “strong experience of driving unified standards and regulation “— so the company is clearly well versed in how to flatter hosts.
“It sets clear standards, defines responsibilities for all parties and applies equally to all European companies,” he continued. “GDPR has thus become the worldwide golden standard for privacy protection. We believe that European regulators can lead the way on similar cyber security mechanisms as well.
Hu concluded his speech with another industry – wide plea: “We are also committed to working more closely with all European stakeholders to build a trust system based on objective facts and verification. This is the cornerstone for all of a secure digital environment.”
However, there is no doubt about Huawei’s appetite for doing business in Europe.
The question is whether the telcos and governments of Europe can be persuaded to swallow any doubts they may have about spying risks and commit to working with the giant Chinese kit as they roll out a new generation of critical infrastructure.