In short: US Senators Marco Rubio and Mark R. Warner have written a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing “grave concerns” about the Chinese government and Communist Party’s influence over networking provider Huawei, TechCrunch reports. More directly, the letter warns that Huawei and other “state-directed” telecommunications companies should not be allowed to take part in the buildout of Canada’s 5G networks. The primary cause for worry, according to the senators, is that Canada’s safeguards and security would be wholly inadequate for dealing with the threat posed by Huawei and others who might act under the influence of Chinese officials.
Background: The call to exclude Huawei and others from Canada’s 5G networks follows comments from Head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security Scott Jones. Speaking before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Mr. Jones claimed that a ban on Huawei was unnecessary. The country’s measures to ensure network resilience and security, he stated, were adequate to allow continued cooperation with Huawei. The concerns stem from two separate issues, according to Mr. Rubio and Mr. Warner. In terms of Canadian national security, the senators point to the recent discovery made by UK government officials which indicated that Huawei’s engineering processes had exposed new national security risks in that country. More recently, both Huawei and ZTE have effectively been banned from the 5G network roll-outs in Austrailia. The move followed a similar move by the US government, instituted through the Defense Authorization Act, which banned the use of ZTE or Huawei equipment by government officials or domestic agencies.
However, while the senators express unease regarding Canada’s own national security, the chief concern is Canada’s involvement in an ongoing shared intelligence initiative called “Five Eyes.” That effort includes cooperation between the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. The decades-old program could be seriously compromised by the work of Chinese signal-intelligence agencies, the senators say, as well as forcing a divergence in cooperation on network spectrum use for 5G roll-outs in for carriers in both Canada and the US. That would seriously diminish the speed with which 5G can be implemented in both countries.
Impact: At issue here is Canada’s apparent confidence that it will be able to continue working closely with an array of global companies, including Huawei, in its network rollout process. That includes the incoming 5G implementation for which the US and Canada will share some spectrum. The senators worry that by opening up its own networks to the risks presented by Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government, US network traffic will inadvertently be put at risk. While that’s not entirely unfounded, whether or not Canadian officials act on those concerns remains to be seen.
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