Mike Burgess is the Director General of the Australian Signals Directorate, today he’s opened up about the reasons for banning Chinese-based Huawei and ZTE from bidding to build Australia’s 5G infrastructure.
Despite delivering a large part of our 4G infrastructure, Huawei were classified as a high risk vendor due to a ‘potential threat anywhere in the network is a threat to the whole network’.
A core reason for this ‘increased risk’, relates to the opportunities afforded by high-speed, low-latency connectivity. Essentially as a society, we’ll be connecting devices that have never been connected before and putting infrastructure on the internet in a way never seen before.
Burgess said 5G technology will be at the centre of applications ranging from driverless cars to power and water supply and “the stakes could not be higher.” While highly qualified – a degree in electronics engineering and a stint in Defence’s Science and Technology organisation, Burgess’ arguments don’t explain why controls and checks were not implemented, rather than an outright ban.
In reality, much of our infrastructure is already being connected (hopefully securely) and efforts to measure more aspects of their business, collect better data and find efficiencies. Right now 4G infrastructure is being used to do this, often via IoT. Sure 5G improves on the sample rate and accuracy of this data in real-time, but we’re kidding ourselves if we imagine this isn’t already happening.
Burgess went on to say,
“a potential threat anywhere in the network is a threat to the whole network”.
For my money, there’s still a lot of questions unanswered and not a single piece of evidence that Huawei or ZTE-based products have malicious software, backdoors, or anything that would serve as a legitimate security threat to Australia. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but to date, there’s no evidence (at least not public) that there’s a technical reason, not a political one, for banning Chinese-based, now international companies from 5G.
Internationally we’ll definitely see these companies make consumer and business grade products that implement 5G and they’ll sell into Australia. While they are now blocked from the infrastructure, connected 5G devices from Chinese companies will still operate in Australia. The net effect is that we’re just paying more for the infrastructure.
You can read more information at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-30/australian-signals-directorate-boss-explains-huawei-ban/10444064