Picture: 123RF/TEOH CHIN LEONG
Picture: 123RF/TEOH CHIN LEONG

London — The US wants foreign governments to follow Germany in adopting stricter security standards for next-generation 5G telecoms networks, a US cyber-security official said on Wednesday, adding that doing so would effectively rule out the use of Chinese equipment vendors.

Last month, Germany set tougher criteria for vendors supplying network equipment, stopping short of singling out China’s Huawei Technologies for special treatment and instead saying the same rules should apply to all vendors.

The German decision is seen as a blow to Washington, which has led efforts to get Western governments to ban market-leader Huawei due to concerns its equipment could be used to support Chinese state spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

However, Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber-policy, international-communications and information policy at the US state department, said Washington approved of the German move.

“We have encouraged countries to adopt risk-based security frameworks,” he said, speaking on a call with reporters on Wednesday. “And we think that a rigorous application of those frameworks ... will lead inevitably to the banning of Huawei.

“At this point, we’re looking for governments to adopt security standards like we’re seeing in Germany. We think it was a very positive step forward in the German standards.”

The German rules state that critical equipment should only be used after scrutiny and certification overseen by Germany’s BSI federal cyber-security watchdog, and that “core components may only be procured from trustworthy vendors and manufacturers”.

German telecoms operators have opposed a ban on Huawei, saying doing so would delay the roll-out of 5G networks by years, and Berlin has pushed to assert its independence in the face of warnings by the US that it will be unable to share intelligence with allies that use the company’s equipment.

Strayer said the US concerns go beyond intelligence-sharing but that a policy decision has not yet been made. “We also have so much more co-operation beyond intelligence,” he said. “So, no doubt, if there are untrusted vendors in another country’s network, it will harm our ability to co-operate in a number of aspects.”

Reuters