29 February 2020
State-backed entities are the most likely to target 5G networks, the European Commission said. Photo: Xinhua
State-backed entities are the most likely to target 5G networks, the European Commission said. Photo: Xinhua

EU warns of 5G cybersecurity risks

The European Union warned of the risk of increased cyber attacks by state-backed entities but refrained from singling out China and its telecoms equipment market leader Huawei Technologies as threats, Reuters reports.

The comments came in a report prepared by EU member states on cybersecurity risks to next-generation 5G mobile networks seen as crucial to the bloc’s competitiveness in an increasingly networked world.

“Among the various potential actors, non-EU states or state-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks,” the European Commission and Finland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country,” they said.

Huawei, which competes with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson, said it stands ready to work with its European partners on 5G network security. It has always denied its equipment can be used for spying.

Fifth-generation networks will hook up billions of devices, sensors and cameras in “smart” cities, homes and offices. With that ubiquity, security becomes an even more pressing need than in existing networks.

EU members have differed on how to treat Huawei, with Britain, a close US ally, leaning toward excluding it from critical parts of networks. Germany, meanwhile, is creating a level playing field in which all 5G vendors should prove they are trustworthy.

The report warned against over-dependence on one telecoms equipment supplier.

“A major dependency on a single supplier increases the exposure to a potential supply interruption, resulting for instance from a commercial failure, and its consequences,” it said.

The EU will seek to come up with a so-called toolbox of measures by the end of the year to address cybersecurity risks at the national and bloc-wide level.

The European Agency for Cybersecurity is also finalizing a map of specific threats related to 5G networks.

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