US State Department Says Europe Getting its Message on Huawei

February 26, 2019 Updated: February 26, 2019

BARCELONA—European governments are listening to the U.S. message that China’s Huawei exposes telecoms networks to security risks, a senior U.S. cyber official said on Feb. 26.

The State Department official was part of a U.S. delegation in Barcelona seeking to persuade governments and telecoms operators at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest wireless fair, to follow the U.S. lead in shunning Huawei equipment.

“People are understanding our point that we are making about the security risks that are inherent in this technology coming from China,” said Robert L. Strayer, U.S. State Department ambassador for cyber and international communications.

“We have been very successful in convincing these governments to work with us to think about these types of threats to their future infrastructure,” Strayer told reporters.

The United States warns that next-generation 5G equipment, which some telecoms experts see as more vulnerable to attack than previous technology, could be exploited by the Chinese regime for spying if supplied by Huawei.

Huawei has grown rapidly to become the world’s biggest maker of telecoms equipment and is embedded in the mobile networks and 5G plans of many European operators.

In the United States, 5G networks will largely be built by Nordic equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia, and Strayer said there were multiple safer alternatives to Huawei.

Several Western countries have restricted the firm’s access to their markets.

Washington has also alleged Huawei violated its regime of sanctions on Iran and stole intellectual property. “We know that Huawei itself has been duplicitous and deceitful,” Strayer said.

Asked what evidence he had that Huawei had installed so-called backdoors—a deliberate coding vulnerability to grant access to intelligence services —Strayer pointed to a British government report released last July.

The British report found that technical and supply-chain issues with Huawei equipment had exposed national telecoms networks to new security risks.

“Really I think the question is this: do you want to have a system that is potentially compromised by the Chinese government or would you rather go with a more secure alternative?”

By Jack Stubbs & Isla Binnie

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