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Focus on cyber security puts Huawei under the spotlight

Paul Brislen, Editor. 05 November 2018, 5:32 am

Pressure is mounting on the New Zealand government to follow Australia and the United States' lead in banning Chinese equipment maker Huawei from building next generation cellphone networks in this country.

Given Huawei is already well ensconced in the market - Spark and 2Degrees use Huawei to provide the backbone of their mobile networks while Vodafone use Huawei kit in its fixed-line network, and Huawei sells mobile phones and modems extensively in New Zealand - this would seem to be a big ask, but Minister of Communications Kris Faafoi says it is possible for New Zealand to ban Chinese equipment makers out of security concerns.

Both Spark and 2Degrees have come out swinging, with 2Degrees spokesman Mat Bollard telling Stuff that customers would end up paying more if the company was forced to re-tool using another provider.

"We have been with Huawei for the better part of ten years and it is important it remains around as an option because it provides quality network kit and brings price-competitiveness to the market," he told Stuff.

And Spark's CEO, Simon Moutter, also said unless the government had incontrovertible proof of any security breach, perhaps it had best stick to its knitting.

"We hope that our government would not preclude them from being considered without incontrovertible evidence their technology presents a security risk," he told the company's Annual General Meeting late last month.

Huawei has responded by suggesting it won't bid for "core" network assets should the issue arise, but points out that while US and Australian partners are unwilling to use Chinese equipment makers, both New Zealand and the UK have done so without concern for some time.

Meanwhile the Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB) suggests Kiwi businesses should be giving cyber-security more emphasis.

In a survey of 250 "nationally significant organisations" by the GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) the government spy agency found only 19% of organisations have a chief of information security role, and that while many are increasing their spending on cyber security more than half felt they don't have the personnel to manage risks well enough.

The full report can be found here.


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