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No Huawei ‘Smoking Gun’ in Europe, French Cyber Chief Says

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·3 min read
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(Bloomberg) -- France’s cybersecurity chief said his agency hasn’t uncovered any evidence of Huawei Technologies Co. spying via Europe’s communications networks, shrugging off U.S. and German concerns.

Guillaume Poupard, the head of the national cybersecurity agency ANSSI, spoke following reports of a U.S. document transmitted to Germany, citing evidence of Huawei spying through its equipment.

“There is no Huawei smoking gun as of today in Europe,” Poupard said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “There is no situation with Huawei being caught massively spying in Europe. Elsewhere maybe it’s different, but not in Europe.”

Intelligence agencies and companies have been warning about the dangers of equipment from China’s Huawei for nearly a decade. The Shenzhen-based giant has always denied that its products posed any kind of security threat. The U.S. government has recently put pressure on its allies to avoid using the Chinese gear maker’s equipment in their 5G infrastructure.

Poupard acknowledged that Huawei may have held discussions with the Chinese state, but noted that Chinese national security laws require all local organizations to cooperate with the national intelligence service.

“The fact that Huawei discusses with the Chinese state, it’s normal,” he said. “It’s a Chinese company, and the law forces them to. It’s no use reproaching them for that; we just have to include that as an existing setting.”

Huawei said the company’s relationship with the Chinese government is no different from any other private company operating in China.

“We have never received any order from the Chinese government in the last 30 years,” it said. “Huawei is a 100% privately owned company.”

Germany’s spy chief has previously said Huawei “can’t fully be trusted.” A Handelsblatt report this week cited a classified note from the German Foreign Office that stated that last year it received intelligence from the U.S. of Huawei cooperating with China’s security agencies.

Bloomberg reported last year that from 2009 to 2011, Vodafone Group Plc — one of the world’s most powerful and far-reaching telecom companies — found vulnerabilities that could have given Huawei access to its fixed-line network in Italy, according to security briefing documents from the London-based company. Vodafone Group Plc says the issues were resolved.

In May, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported an alleged Huawei “backdoor” in the network of a major telecoms firm in the Netherlands. It said the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, was probing whether the breach had enabled spying by the Chinese government.

The European Union, as well as the U.K., have this week unveiled their recommendations for regulating equipment for future 5G communication networks. French rules stipulate that non-European actors won’t be allowed in core networks, and also in certain cities, including Paris. French and European regulations never name Huawei in their public documentation.

Huawei is currently suing critics in France who alleged it has ties to the Chinese state. In March last year it filed three defamation claims in Paris over comments made during television programs by a French researcher, a broadcast journalist and a telecommunications sector expert.

(Updates with Huawei comment in seventh-eighth paragraphs)

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Vidya Root

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