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BSNL told to test networks supplied by China's Huawei
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NEW DELHI: The communication ministry has warned state-owned telco BSNL that telecom networks supplied by Chinese equipment major Huawei must be tested for trapdoors, blackboxes, malwares, and also, if it is susceptible to remote hacking before they can be allowed to be operational.

Last week, as first reported by ET, BSNL was permitted to award telecom network contract to Huawei, but subject to the condition that the orders be restricted to the southern states of the country, as this region did not share borders with sensitive countries such as China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan. The communication ministry has also warned that networks provided by companies such as Huawei can go live only when all requisite security audits are done.

This latest warning comes as the communication ministry is worried that network and hardware vendors of suspect origin, especially from China, may install back door entries — remote login facilities also design Trojan horses — and may not reveal it when they sell the equipment to BSNL.

This is because, equipment makers, while designing networks, often create remote diagnostic facilities, which are never revealed to the customer nor disabled when the product is introduced in the market, and the communication ministry is therefore concerned that this could be used to remotely bring down Indian networks at a later stage.

The Department of Telecom (DoT), in a communication to BSNL’s chairman and managing director Kuldeep Goyal, has also said that the telco should completely take over the maintenance of its networks from foreign operators within a time frame of not less than two years.

The DoT has also told BSNL that networks provided by Huawei should not have remote access. Remote access (RA) means monitoring the data and voice traffic from remote locations in India and abroad. At present, Indian regulations allow RA. “BSNL should have a DoT approved network and disaster recovery management plan and capability. Such a plan or capability should be submitted to the licensor for approval,” the DoT communication added.

In fact, Huawei was also the sole company that was shortlisted for BSNL’s 25 million lines in Western India, but the PSU now plans to award this contract, worth $1.5 billion, to French-Indian combine Alcatel-ITI. BSNL has identified this as an alternate solution as the telco cannot award this contract to Chinese equipment major Huawei on security grounds as the West zone shares sensitive boundaries with Pakistan.

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