Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Canberra, Australia (4E) – Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., China’s and the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, poses a grave threat to Australia’s telecommunications, water supply and electricity grid infrastructure.
This is the reason why Huawei can’t be allowed to help build Australia’s new 5G mobile network, said Mike Burgess, Director General of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). This unit of the Department of Defense is responsible for Australia’s foreign signals intelligence operations; supports military operations; conducts cyber warfare and provides information security.
Burgess said Australia’s new 5G network iss too important to risk to put at risk with foreign involvement. He noted that if “high-risk vendor equipment” is used anywhere in Australia’s evolving 5G network, the future communications system underpinning our water supply and electricity grid and health systems, even self-driving cars, could not be protected.
“The stakes could not be higher,” warned Burgess.
“Historically, we have protected the sensitive information and functions at the core of our telecommunications networks by confining our high-risk vendors to the edge of our networks.
“But the distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network,” he said at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s national security dinner in Canberra.
Burgess also told the audience that strategic and economic power was shifting east as the global economy changes. He said this shift is bringing with it a wealth of opportunities for Australia as the country advances its digital economy and trade relationships.
The shift, however, is also changing the industrial base Australia relies on for critical infrastructure.
“We will need to be open-eyed on the potential threats that any significant change of this kind poses to Australia’s most important interests,” he said.
“It would be naive to think we can manage these strategic and technology risks by holding back change. Like everything, it is a question of finding the right balance between leveraging all the advantages that these new shifts bring – and protecting Australians, our values and our way of life.
“These twin themes of technological and strategic economic shifts can be seen in the government’s recent decision to prohibit telecommunications carriers from using high-risk vendors in 5G networks. This decision, which was not taken lightly, was supported by technical advice from my agency, all elements of my agency. Our intelligence and offensive cyber experts that led the formation of our cyber security advice.
“Our starting point was that, if 5G technology delivers on its promise, the next generation of telecommunications networks will be at the top of every country’s list of critical national infrastructure.
“5G is not just fast data, it is also high-density connection of devices – human to human, human to machine and machine to machine – and finally it is much lower signal latency or speed of response.
“5G technology will underpin the communications that Australians rely on every day, from our health systems and the potential applications of remote surgery, to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply.
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