Expert: Europe's Huawei issues linked to existing dependency on the company

Kadri Kaska (left) talking to ERR's Katrin Viirpalu on Friday morning's
Kadri Kaska (left) talking to ERR's Katrin Viirpalu on Friday morning's "Terevisioon". Source: ERR

EU nations' difficulties in taking a clear stance on Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei stem largely from existing technological dependency, according to one Estonian cyber security expert, who added that the company is already a major player in Europe even before 5G is fully rolled-out.

"There is nothing to be done in order to make Huawei a competitor of any greater magnitude than it already is," said Kadri Kaska, of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), based in Tallinn.

"There is a price advantage, but there is also the issue of synergies with existing network equipment, [and] the question of investments already made by companies," Kaska said, speaking on ETV morning show "Terevisioon".

While the U.S. has long been restricting the use of Chinese technology in its communications networks for years, in Europe, Huawei's share of 4G networks is already close to half, Kaska said.

"Our dependency is high enough as it is today," she said.

Regarding fears that Huawei hardware and software could be used on behalf of the Beijing government for espionage, cyber attacks and other threats to security, Kaska said that there was nothing new in that.

"China's ability to carry out cyber attacks is well-known, as is the fact that they can use their own private companies to do so," Kaska said. 

"There is no reason to believe that Huawei could not be among them," she added.

Also appearing on Friday's edition of "Terevisioon", Raul Rikk, state cyber security project manager, said the Estonian state has no overview of the technology used by communications companies.

"Communications devices have become so complex that we can't control what these devices do," Rikk explained. 

"This is not only the case in Estonia, but also in the larger countries," he continued, adding that if suspicions of cyber threats are found to be with basis, amends to the relevant laws would make it possible to assess excluding any particular manufacturer.

Foreign intelligence service's concerns

Mikk Maran, head of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service (Välisluureamet) that Wednesday that the Chinese government has the ultimate say in state-owned firms.

"China is doing all it needs and using a variety of techniques and tools, including consulting firms, to increase its leverage," the foreign intelligence agency chief said, in the wake of the latest edition of the annual Internal Security Service (ISS) yearbook, published earlier in the week, citing the 5G network among its security concerns regarding China.

Huawei is being represented in Estonia by PR firm Powerhouse OÜ, a company up by former government minister Janek Mäggi, and employing two more ex-ministers.

Despite Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) concurring with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) in late October that Estonia should adhere to international principles in the safe development of 5G networks – the U.S. banned companies from using Huawei networking equipment in 2012 – MP Kalev Kallo (Center), leader of the Estonia-China parliamentary group at the Riigikogu, said on Thursday that Huawei should not be sidelined, with Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) not ruling out Huawei as a possible developer of the country's 5G network.

Other companies on the table for the project include Nokia and Ericsson.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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