Interview The EU has not seen evidence that Huawei poses a threat to its internal markets – and says that even if it had, blocking the controversial Chinese company's products is up to EU member nations, not the political bloc.
In an interview with The Register Despina Spanou, director of digital society, trust and cybersecurity within the EU's Communications Network, Content and Technology directorate, said that individual European Union countries had not raised any security concerns about Huawei.
"At this point in time it's up to the member states to decide whether to exclude certain countries from their markets for national security reasons," Spanou told us. "It is not the EU that decides that, they make their own assessments and decisions."
Spanou's comments come hot on the heels of the American envoy to the EU publicly threatening countries within the political bloc if they dare use Huawei-made networking equipment. Gordon Sondland told Bloomberg, seemingly with a straight face:
"There are no compelling reasons that I can see to do business with the Chinese, so long as they have the structure in place to reach in and manipulate or spy on their customers. Those who are charging ahead blindly and embracing the Chinese technology without regard to these concerns may find themselves in a disadvantage in dealing with us."
Yet the EU's public line on Huawei has been noticeably softer than that of the Five Eyes spying alliance, most of whom have condemned the Chinese company – except for the UK, though some muted criticism has made its way out.
Spanou also told The Register that the EU had not heard anything bad about Huawei from its member states, saying: "When it comes to the internal market, again, at this point in time we do not have any evidence demonstrating that there is an issue that has come to the attention of the [EU] Commission."
She also highlighted the EU's proposed cybersecurity sticker scheme for consumer goods, expressing the hope that it "will generate a certain incentive in the market for people to seek certificated products", thus bringing vendors on board with the "voluntary" initiative. The broad idea is that stickers indicating whether a particular product has passed EU-mandated checks would include, according to Spanou, controls on a product's planned lifespan.
"It's not just the certificate," she said. "It's the acquirements that come with it, to validate the certificate. For how long does this product remain secure?" she asked rhetorically, highlighting that the EU aims to target "software" and "other connected components".
In the long term the scheme will be rolled out to infrastructure as well as consumer goods, Spanou said, as part of the EU's expressed aim to secure bloc-wide infosec controls over transport, energy and banking infrastructure. "These are a priority area for certified products and services," said Spanou.
As part of that push the EU wants to stimulate more training in the cybersecurity skills market, aiming to train an additional 350,000 people across the bloc. Spanou highlighted that "those missing skills are a threat on their own" because they "allow you to defend in case of an attack." This fits with France's recently expressed aim to step up infosec training for industry as well as the public sector. ®