Canada is conducting a national security analysis to minimize cyberthreats to the country from equipment made by foreign telecommunications companies, including China’s Huawei – a study that has gained importance since the United States and Australia banned the telecom giant from participating in new wireless cellular networks.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who recently had discussions in Australia about possible threats from Huawei during a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, said on Tuesday the security analysis is government-wide, but would provide no further details.
Mr. Goodale visited Australia in late August, shortly after Canberra barred Huawei and rival Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE from supplying parts there for the development of the mobile network known as 5G, citing national security.
“We had the opportunity to hear from Australia in terms of its decision and the decision-making process that is under way in a great many countries," Mr. Goodale told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting. "That was useful information from Canada’s point of view, and we are making sure we have the analysis and ultimately the set of decisions that will keep Canadians safe.”
Huawei did not have an immediate response to Ottawa’s national security analysis.
5G is the next stage in cellular technology, and will require massive infrastructure to deliver the promised faster downloads. Under Chinese law, companies must “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work” as requested by Beijing, and security experts in the United States and Canada warn that equipment produced by firms such as Huawei could be compromised on behalf of China’s ruling party.
When asked whether Ottawa is considering following the United States and Australia, Mr. Goodale said he did not want to talk about specific companies, but added that “nothing is left out” of the security analysis.
“We are examining the issue of security in relation to supply chains right across the government very carefully. It is a topic that many countries – our allies in particular – are taking a very close look at and have been for a considerable length of time," he said. “We have not arrived at those decisions yet, but obviously we are very sensitive to the issue.”
Supply-chain cybersecurity is the task of managing security requirements for computers, telecommunications, software and networks to reduce the likelihood of attacks such as hacking, malware and theft. This includes setting criteria for what products can be used or stipulating which vendors can be trusted to supply equipment. Examples of supply-chain cyberthreats include vulnerabilities in software that malicious actors can exploit, or malware pre-installed in software or hardware.
Mr. Goodale did not say when the security analysis began, but the Trump administration, Congress and U.S. security agencies have been cranking up pressure on Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand – three of its partners in the Five Eyes – to ban Huawei from 5G networks.
An official in Mr. Goodale’s office later told The Globe the analysis began well before Australia announced its 5G ban on Huawei and ZTE.
Japan is also studying whether additional regulations are needed to reduce “security risks from using network equipment from Chinese companies," according to the Wall Street Journal, which spoke to officials responsible for cybersecurity in the Japanese government’s cabinet office. The Japanese business newspaper Sankei Shimbun also reported that the security restrictions being contemplated would effectively ban Huawei and ZTE from Japan.
Huawei’s future in India has also come into question. The Economic Times of India cited the country’s telecom secretary in a recent report saying the Chinese firm was being excluded from the government’s list of partner companies for 5G trials. “We have written to Cisco, Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia, and telecom service providers to partner with us to start 5G technology-based trials, and have got positive response from them,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told ETT. “We have excluded Huawei from these trials.”
Huawei has denied it is being excluded from 5G trials in India, pointing to comments from the telecom secretary that she might be open to including the firm.
In early September, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the spy agency tasked with protecting Canadians from cyberattacks, acknowledged to The Globe that it has been conducting security tests since 2013 on telecommunications equipment sold in Canada by Huawei. Britain has a similar testing system, but a report in July found that the results give only limited assurances that Huawei’s operations pose no threat.
Former directors of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – Richard Fadden and Ward Elcock – and John Adams, the former head of the CSE, told The Globe in July that Ottawa should keep Huawei out of 5G in Canada.