Software backdoors found in Huawei equipment

Software backdoors found in Huawei equipment

Bloomberg reports that Vodafone found multiple software vulnerabilities in equipment supplied for their Italian business by China-based telecom giant, Huawei. The issues have all been resolved and there is no evidence of data being compromised.

According to their report, "Europe’s biggest phone company identified hidden backdoors in the software that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy, a system that provides internet service to millions of homes and businesses, according to Vodafone’s security briefing documents from 2009 and 2011 seen by Bloomberg, as well as people involved in the situation."

A backdoor is a way in which access can be granted to secure data, bypassing the software's security and encryption. It is unclear whether the backdoors discovered were intentional inclusions, or simply unintentional vulnerabilities.

"Vodafone also identified backdoors in parts of its fixed-access network known as optical service nodes, which are responsible for transporting internet traffic over optical fibers, and other parts called broadband network gateways, which handle subscriber authentication and access to the internet"

Huawei became the biggest manufacturer of telecom equipment in the world when it overtook Ericsson in 2012, and it is also the second largest supplier of smartphones after Samsung.

Although the backdoors were discovered years ago, the news story is the latest in long list of complaints against Huawei and is likely to further damage their international reputation. Huawei has denied that the backdoors were intentional, and insists that they operate independently of the Chinese government. Incidentally, Huawei is an employee-owned company, although the shares do not grant employees voting rights.

The USA has been attempting to discourage other countries from using Huawei technology, particularly in regard to next-generation 5G network equipment. So far Australia, Japan, and Taiwan have joined the USA in banning Huawei equipment, with New Zealand and Canada expected to follow suit.

Becky Cunningham
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