Canada Zeroes in on Huawei Technologies

by Jordan Richardson on September 24, 2012

Huawei Technologies, Ericsson’s chief rival as the top telecommunications equipment manufacturer on the planet, finds itself in the cross-hairs of the Canadian Department of National Defence.

According to top secret government agency documents obtained by The Globe and Mail through access to information legislation, the Shenzhen-based company is being watched very carefully – even to the extent of “engagement options” and “risk mitigation activities.”

Huawei has been countering accusations from the Americans over its telecommunications equipment, with some politicians suggesting that Chinese government agents could be using it to do damage to foreign communications equipment. Canada is also watching Huawei for this purpose, with the Communications Security Establishment keeping an eye on things.

One Department of National Defence presentation is titled “Supply Chain Threats to Canada.” Dated May 8, the presentation details at least three pages to Huawei and potential problems that could impact Canada’s telecommunications industry straight from the supply line. Huawei supplies equipment to the likes of Bell Canada, WIND Mobile, SaskTel, and Telus.

Included in the presentation is a reference to the “Farewell dossier,” a collection of documents KGB agent Vladimir Vetrov forked over to French intelligence during the Cold War. Vetrov had been assigned to keep an eye on Western hardware and software, but he started to waver in his Soviet convictions and eventually went to work for the French. He gave an estimated 4,000 documents to a branch of the French police, outing a number of cover agents in the process. In response, the CIA subsequently transferred a pile of faulty information to the Russians – including a virus that likely led to the 1982 Siberian pipeline sabotage.

Is Canada thinking of transferring similarly faulty telecommunications information to China through Huawei? Doubtful.

What’s most likely is that Canada will consider a contingency plan of sorts that takes into account its lack of footing (it can’t block Chinese technology outright due to trade deals and a general consumer dependency on cheaply-made gadgets) and its possible responses. For one thing, the government is considering implementing more security standards when it comes to contracts.

For its part, Huawei denies having anything to do with spying or potential spying. “We’re a globally successful, employee-owned, Chinese-based, telecommunications company. It is reasonable to assume the government will be taking a look at us,” company spokesman Scott Bradley said.

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October 9, 2012 at 8:12 am

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