Huawei opens Brussels security lab in bid to reassure EU

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Huawei has opened a cybersecurity lab in Brussels as the Chinese tech company tries to win over EU leaders amid US allegations that its equipment poses a national security risk.

Company executives inaugurated the Huawei European Cybersecurity Centre, which will allow the wireless companies that are its customers to review the source code running its network gear.

The launch comes amid a standoff between the US and China over Huawei Technologies, the world’s biggest maker of telecom infrastructure for new high-speed 5G networks. The US has been lobbying allies to shun Huawei because of fears that its equipment could facilitate digital espionage by China’s communist leaders.

The new lab in the Belgian capital gives Huawei a venue to reassure EU policymakers about its cybersecurity credentials. It opened a similar centre in Bonn, Germany, in November, and funds a UK Government-run British testing site, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which opened in 2010.

Ken Hu, deputy chairman at Huawei, told a crowd gathered for the opening in Brussels that all regulators, standards organisations and customers were welcome to use the centre.

“Both trust and distrust should be based on facts, not feelings, not speculation, and not baseless rumour,” he said, in a thinly veiled hint at the US allegations.

Europe is Huawei’s biggest market outside China, and the company hopes to play a key role in building the continent’s 5G networks, in competition with Scandinavian rivals Ericsson and Nokia.

Fifth-generation mobile networks enable lightning fast download speeds and reduce signal lag, advances that will be used in smart factories, self-driving cars and remote surgery.

Both sides went public with their fight last week at MWC Barcelona, the world’s biggest wireless industry show, with Huawei’s chairman saying in a keynote speech that “we don’t do bad things” and would “never plant back doors” in equipment.

US officials told reporters at the same event that they were pressing other governments and companies to consider the threat posed by Huawei but did not offer any specific evidence of the risk.

Washington’s campaign against Huawei includes criminal charges against its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou (pictured below), who the US wants to extradite from Canada to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business with Iran.

Meng Wanzhou
Meng Wanzhou (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press/AP)

Despite the US campaign, there are signs that European governments and mobile companies are resisting a blanket ban on Huawei equipment. GSMA, the mobile industry’s trade group, has recommended a testing and certification programme.

In an annual review of Huawei’s engineering practices published in July, Britain’s cybersecurity agency noted “shortcomings” that “exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks”, but none were deemed of medium or high priority.

Chris Price
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