A recent research paper published by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) takes a look at the cyber security debate around Huawei as the potential supplier of 5G technology for next generation wireless networks. It will consider the strategic and legal issues raised by potential reliance on Chinese technology in the rollout of 5G, explore the national responses, and offer recommendations for a common approach. Please note that the CCDCOE does not speak on behalf of NATO.
The paper Huawei, 5G, and China as a Security Threat written by Kadri Kaska, Henrik Beckvard and Tomáš Minárik, researchers at the CCDCOE, recognises that it is rational to demand the highest possible security assurance from 5G technology used for critical communication. The pursuit for technological innovation is accompanied by concerns about cybersecurity with implications to a broader national security context. Possible loss or interruption of availability, integrity or confidentiality in critical networks could have a significant adverse effect on society.
Many countries have expressed their concerns about the potential consequences of ties between Chinese communications technology companies and its intelligence services, reinforced by China’s political and legal environment requiring cooperation with intelligence agencies. Accordingly, 5G rollout needs to be recognised as a strategic rather than merely a technological choice.
The authors claim that viable alternatives to Huawei technology are necessary to preserve flexibility of choice and to prevent being trapped with one supplier without a way out. Solid accountability, transparency, and risk mitigation mechanisms are the essential minimum in order to benefit from the socioeconomic benefit of 5G without jeopardising national security. To this end, R&D investment and strengthening regional industry are not purely issues of global competitiveness, but should also be considered – and more importantly, pursued – for their security dimension.
Please note that this publication is a product of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a NATO-accredited cyber defence hub focusing on research, training and exercises. The CCDCOE does not speak on behalf of NATO and the research done in the Centre does not necessarily reflect the policy or the opinion of NATO or the CCDCOE. The paper is available at ccdcoe.org
The Centre supports its 21 member states and Alliance with expertise on cyber defence, with expertise in the areas of technology, strategy, operations and law. CCDCOE is home of the Tallinn Manual 2.0, the most comprehensive guide on how International Law applies to cyber operations. The Centre also organises the world’s largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defence exercise Locked Shields. CCDCOE hosts annually the International Conference on Cyber Conflict, a unique event bringing together key experts and decision-makers of the global cyber defence community.