Huawei: Dutch Treat for 5G Security

April 27, 2021

A secret report from 2010 has surfaced in the Netherlands and has been reviewed by editors at news site de Volkskrant. The document reveals that “Huawei Was Able to Eavesdrop on Dutch Mobile Network KPN,” reports the NL Times. We learn that, in 2009, KPN used Huawei tech and that six employees of the Chinese tech giant worked at its head office. Warned by security firm AIVD that this was a dicey situation, KPN hired researchers at Capgemini analyze any risks involved. We learn:

“The conclusions turned out to be so alarming that the internal report was kept secret. ‘The continued existence of KPN Mobile is in serious danger because permits may be revoked or the government and businesses may give up their confidence in KPN if it becomes known that the Chinese government can eavesdrop on KPN mobile numbers and shut down the network’, de Volkskrant quotes the report. At the time, KPN’s mobile network had 6.5 million subscribers.”

These subscribers included then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and other ministers as well as, importantly, Chinese dissidents. The write-up continues:

“The Capgemini report stated that Huawei staff, both from within KPN buildings and from China, could eavesdrop on unauthorized, uncontrolled, and unlimited KPN mobile numbers. The company gained unauthorized access to the heart of the mobile network from China. How often that happened is not clear because it was not recorded anywhere.”

Huawei assures everyone it never took advantage of this access and there is no evidence (yet) that it did so. The revelation explains why KPN has since maintained its own mobile core network and relied upon Western suppliers. Lesson learned.

Cynthia Murrell, April 27, 2021


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