Embattled Chinese technology giant Huawei took steps to repair its image today, offering Australian authorities unrestricted access to the source code for its products.
The company was barred earlier this year from participating in the country’s National Broadband Network over concerns its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage.
Huawei is already battling similar concerns in the US, after a report by the US House Intelligence Committee advised companies to avoid working with it and fellow Chinese company ZTE. Those concerns appear to be unfounded though — a White House source told Reuters last week that a review did not find any evidence of spying. What appears to be happening now is a full-court press to beat back these allegations.
In remarks to the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia on Tuesday, Huawei’s Australian chief John Lord proposed that the country set up a national cyber security center, where all technologies integrated into critical infrastructure is subject to testing. Seemingly bothered by the fact Huawei has been subjected to more scrutiny than others, he stressed that “all other vendors should be subject to the same high standard of transparency.”
“If Australia is to effectively mitigate risk in our communications networks, we must establish universal, transparent frameworks to provide security assurance for all vendors,” Lord argued. The company is prepared to release its source code to such a center if the country agrees to take such steps.
Obviously, Huawei has a significant interest in keeping suspicions about its company’s activities under control. Since the US report, Canada has also decided against using the company’s products in a government communications network. Global attitudes on Huawei may be reaching a tipping point where it is seen as a threat to cyber security, and there might not be much time to change that.
Lord told attendees that the US report was about “protectionism, not security” and “missed an opportunity” to truly deal with the issue of global cyber security. In a Q&A session after his remarks, he went on to stress that the company “has not handed over any information on our employees, clients, any data at all to the Chinese government.”
Whether or not Australia actually follows through with Huawei’s proposal seems unlikely. There are currently no plans for any type of cyber security center like Lord is proposing within Australia’s plan for national security reforms, so such an idea — and any look at Huawei source code — may be off the table.
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