Huawei Equipment Had Security Flaws in 2011-2012

Huawei, Security, Vodafone

Vodafone had found security vulnerabilities in two Huawei products in 2011 and 2012, but the resolution was quick

According to Reuter reports, telecom group Vodafone had found security flaws in equipment supplied by Huawei to its Italian business in 2011 and 2012 as per the companies statements. These were software vulnerabilities, they said, and were immediately fixed by Huawei. However, none of these was about unauthorized access, and no evidence was found for that. “The issues were identified by independent security testing, initiated by Vodafone as part of our routine security measures, and fixed at the time by Huawei,” a Vodafone spokesperson said. The reason for the vulnerability was the use of Telnet, a protocol commonly used by many vendors for performing diagnostic functions on its equipment after it has been deployed.

Responding to the report, Huawei said, “Software vulnerabilities are an industry-wide challenge. Like every information and communications technology vendor, we have a well-established public notification and patching process, and when a vulnerability is identified we work closely with our partners to take the appropriate corrective action.”

Earlier, Huawei, the world’s leading telecoms equipment producer has been facing intense scrutiny for security risks for about a year now. A few months ago, US had taken up the issue with several of its allies, trying to convince many countries to stop using Huawei’s technology, because it believes that their equipment could be vehicles for Chinese spying. Huawei has denied such accusations all along.

In Britain, Vodafone has put a hold on the deployment of Huawei equipment in its core networks early this year, awaiting clearance on risks from western governments on its alleged security risks.

While the US is fighting hard to ensure Huawei does not get any credibility across all countries it can influence, many countries are still unconvinced and undecided about using the equipment.  For one, the British government is still deliberating on the use of Huawei equipment in a future 5G network. To ensure the 5G deployment does not suffer too much, it is expected to announce its decision in the next month. Already mobile operator companies like Vodafone have issued warnings that a ban on Huawei equipment will delay the deployment of 5G globally. This, in turn, would mean the delay of much faster networks that would retard the development in many industries.

In the meantime, other global telecom operators such as British Telecom, Britain’s biggest fixed and mobile operator are also not convinced about US allegations. BT is reported to have said that in their decade long association with Huawei, they had never come across any security breaches.

In the meantime, the US is putting in strong efforts of curbing Huawei’s growth, as the biggest supplier of 5G equipment seems to have become a threat to the US. It has been using every trick in the bag to prove that the Chinese government is using Huawei equipment for spying on other countries. The fact that it is continuing to win contracts from London-based Vodafone is seriously undermining US efforts to topple Huawei from its position as the world leader in telecom equipment.

In the meantime, Vodafone is up for competition with a number of Western companies including Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB, in the race to roll out 5G wireless networks. This could be one of the reasons why Vodafone is defending Huawei, since US’s stand and insistence on cutting its businesses out, has put the brand in the trade crossfire between two superpowers. The stakes are high – leadership in 5G- the networking tech of the future and the backbone of IoT and new enterprise applications in industries across various sectors.

Interestingly, Nick Read, the Vodafone CEO, has publicly opposed any bans on Huawei. He has warned that delays in 5G implementation will mean high-cost escalation, in addition to the slowdown of technology implementations. This defiance has served the purpose at some levels. It is clear that some countries across the world are willing to take risks of going against US recommendations of abandoning Huawei. Perhaps the urgency of implementing 5G will give them the strength to stand up against trade politics and cater to business interests more than political ones.