Chinese telecom giant Huawei has offered to give Australia complete and unrestricted access to its source codes and equipment as it tries to address fears it is spying for Beijing.
Huawei, the world’s second biggest telecom equipment maker, has been barred from Australia’s $38 billion national broadband project because of espionage concerns. The Chinese firm is a telecom supplier for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in Costa Rica.
Huawei Australia chief John Lord said Wednesday those spying concerns, echoed recently by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, were baseless. But he conceded that Huawei has not always been transparent.
“Huawei has done a very poor job of communicating about ourselves in the past, and we must take full responsibility for that,” he said. “For the majority of Huawei’s 25-year existence, we have been a business-to-business company, with little need to sell ourselves to the general public.”
To address concerns, Lord proposed setting up a cyber-security center to test equipment that would be used in Australian networks. There is a similar testing facility in Britain, where Huawei has helped build a national broadband network.
Australia-based security analyst John Lee says the announcement probably does not signal a new era of openness at Huawei, but is rather an attempt to ease fears about its technology.
“I think what they’re trying to do is to copy the British model,
that is, to set up a cyber-security evaluation center to appease fears about Huawei products, but there wasn’t much said or done about making the company more transparent itself,” he said.
Lee, who is also a professor at the University of Sydney, says the move could be successful in convincing Australia about the safety of Huawei products, but will not make a difference when it comes to the company being involved in major infrastructure projects.
The U.S. House Intelligence Committee report this month called for Huawei to be excluded from government contracts and acquisitions because of its suspected ties to Beijing.
In his Wednesday news conference, Lord blasted the report, saying it was based on “protectionism, not security.”
“We sincerely hope that in Australia, we do not allow sober debate on cyber security to become distorted the way it has in the U.S. If we are to find real solutions to real cyber security problems, we cannot allow the discussion to be muddled by issues like the ongoing trade conflict between the U.S. and China,” said Lord.
The U.S. congressional report said Huawei and another Chinese telecom, ZTE, provided incomplete, contradictory, and evasive answers during an almost year-long investigation into its relationship with the Chinese government.
Huawei was founded 25 years ago by Ren Zhengfei, a retired officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army. It is now the second largest maker of telecommunications networking equipment, after Sweden-based Ericsson.