The United States is preparing for a major change in cybersecurity strategy and supporting policies after it became clear that many of its allies aren’t willing to blindly follow its warnings against Huawei and rule out the very possibility of using the Chinese firm’s solutions as part of their efforts to deploy the fifth generation of mobile networks.
Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Susan M. Gordon, officially confirmed Washington is now exploring technological protections against the risk of being anywhere near Huawei-made hardware and accompanying software. While the U.S. has zero intentions of allowing a single transistor that passed through one of Huawei’s factories be installed into any stateside wireless network, public or private, a future wherein its allies rely on 5G enabled by the Shenzen-based firm is a scenario that’s still causing many headaches at the Pentagon and many other government departments.
That state of affairs is what prompted a number of agencies to start exploring alternatives, faced with the imminent risk of failing in their efforts to limit the reach of Huawei’s wireless business in more elegant ways.
The Trump administration has been arguing its case against Huawei’s network gear for about a year now, having done so the world over. And while Australia was quick to take its message to heart last year, presumably because it previously came to distrust Huawei all on its own, the ban wave that some industry watchers have been predicting failed to arrive, with Huawei hence still being very much in the 5G game with more than a fair chance at retaining its position of the world’s largest manufacturer of telecom equipment.
Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea appear to be somewhat close to going with Washington’s idea of an outright ban on Huawei solutions, yet none of them are actually expected to pull the trigger on the decision anytime soon. Germany also looked at the Chinese conglomerate in recent months, concluding the subject of Huawei is suitable for settling differences with the Trump administration and its polarizing approach to diplomacy, at least as far as the Old Continent is concerned.
The move to 5G will see every aspect of a modern society become more dependent on the World Wide Web, albeit with great benefits to doing so such as cutting-edge self-driving vehicles, remote surgery, live-streamed mixed-reality experiences, and similar state-of-the-art solutions. A next-generation network built and maintained by Huawei would also be one that Huawei would likely be able to spy on undetected, not to mention shut down without a moment’s notice if it’s pressured to do so; say, in a scenario wherein a military conflict might be on the horizon and Beijing’s communist government wants to cripple a given warring party’s communications beforehand.
What’s happening right now is a coordinated effort on the part of the U.S. to lock down its communications down to the very last supplier so as to ensure none of the tech it uses in the mobile space moving forward is in any way associated with Huawei. The main potential issue is that in doing so, Washington may introduce new technical difficulties into its communications with about two-thirds of NATO members who will be using Huawei gear precisely because they want to save costs on costly deployments and not invest countless sums into proprietary solutions that will keep Washington’s mind at ease.
Huawei is unsurprisingly still denying it ever spied or was even asked to spy on its customers on behalf of China, a notion that most industry watchers find frivolous.