Huawei spy threat report to be tabled to federal govt soon

NACSA is spearheading discussions, in which CyberSecurity Malaysia and MCMC are consulted on specific topics

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

MALAYSIA’S cyber intelligence agency has initiated a probe into the alleged cyber espionage by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, with a confidential report expected to be tabled to the federal government.

The National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) is leading the engagements with its counterparts in countries which have taken firm positions against Huawei, as efforts are underway to study the espionage allegation and its impact on Malaysia.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak said NACSA is spearheading the discussions, in which MCMC and Cyber-Security Malaysia are consulted on specific topics.

“A confidential report to the government will be produced when the review by NACSA is completed,” he told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

Al-Ishsal said there is no deadline set for the probe as the discussions involve other countries including the US, which has initiated a series of aggressive sanctions on Huawei.

NACSA, under the purview of the National Security Council, was officially established in February 2017.

The agency aims to secure and strengthen Malaysia’s resilience in facing the threats of cyber attacks, by coordinating and consolidating the nation’s best experts and resources in the field of cyber security.

Malaysia is expected to roll out its 5G in the near term, as experts are anticipating the technology to be widely used in Malaysia by 2023.

Last week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will conduct a study to find out the details before excluding Huawei from building its 5G infrastructure in Malaysia.

He said to date, the government has not found the company guilty of any wrongdoings in the country.

Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin had on Tuesday warned Malaysia of the exponential rise of China’s 5G technology as it is capable of creating cyber and digital security threats to the country.

He said there are concerns that the technology would be abused by illegitimate parties to steal important information and encroach on Malaysia’s “digital sovereignty”.

However, according to Daim, the government has no plans to stop Huawei from operating in Malaysia as the authority is capable of assessing cyber and digital security threats.

A multinational tech conglomerate, Huawei has been under scrutiny by Western governments which fear that the company’s products could be used for spying.

Smartphones remain Huawei’s primary business, but it is also a world leader in telecoms infrastructure, including the next generation mobile phone network known as 5G.

Huawei is one of the companies which developed the 5G technology, but there are fears that it could be used by China to hack into companies due to the Huawei founder’s political connections.

5G is considered the next iteration of mobile connectivity and the successor to 4G LTE.

The technology’s exact purpose is explained via a variety of theoretical objectives, including significantly faster smartphone data connectivity, autonomous vehicles, smart home devices and improve rural fixed Internet connections.

Huawei’s participation in 5G infrastructure has been growing, particularly in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Germany.

The company is banned from bidding for government contracts in the US, where intelligence services have raised questions about Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei’s links to China’s ruling Communist Party.

The US has also warned its international peers that Huawei’s equipment may contain “back doors” that could be used for cyber-espionage.

Last month, Huawei equipment was removed from a communication system being developed for the UK’s emergency services.

It was reported that Germany is considering the introduction of stricter security standards to effectively block Huawei from its 5G rollout, while Australia and New Zealand have already enforced bans.