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Swiss parliamentarian calls for ‘zero-trust approach’ amid Huawei espionage claims

Hauwei spy denmark switzerland
Huawei had proposed a “no-spy” deal with Switzerland in 2019, however, no concrete agreement was reached. © Keystone / Walter Bieri

The Chinese network supplier is said to have deployed spies in Denmark. This has sparked concerns by Swiss politicians given Huawei's strong presence in Switzerland.

This past June, Bloomberg news agencyExternal link reported that the Danish telecom group (TDC) in Copenhagen, Denmark was the target of espionage by Huawei, for an upper-hand in a bid against Swedish telecommunications company, Ericsson for a 5G network contract worth CHF175 million ($198 million). The spying accusation came despite Huawei having committed to a “no-spy” deal with the Danish government.   

Huawei had proposed a similar “no-spy” deal with Switzerland in 2019, however, no concrete agreement was reached. Huawei confirmed this informationExternal link to the newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger.

Swisscom and Sunrise, the two major telecommunications operators in Switzerland, both use Huawei equipment in their networks. Sunrise has built its 5G network together with Huawei.

++Billions in investment for fibre-optic network in rural Swiss regions

Swiss politicians express concerns. Parliamentarian Jon Pult, who heads the telecommunications commission in the House of Representatives, says he has no reliable knowledge of espionage against Swiss telecommunications operators. However, he told the Tages-Anzeiger, “it wouldn’t surprise me,” referring to Huawei.

Pult says he is against considering Huawei as a supplier of critical infrastructure in Switzerland because the company is an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party. He advocates a ban on the use of network parts from companies that are either directly or indirectly controlled by a foreign government.

For parliamentarian Hans Wicki, president of the Senate telecommunications commission, the espionage claims in Denmark damage the credibility of Huawei. He calls for a “zero-trust approach” towards suppliers from telecom providers. This is the only way to prevent data leakage from the networks, Wicki says.

The so-called “zero-trust model” is a security concept that distrusts all services, users and devices. No distinction is made inside or outside your own network. All users or services must prove their authenticity before they can access infrastructure.

Sunrise taking precautions

Sunrise, Huawei’s most important customer in Switzerland, rules out having been the victim of similar espionage. “Sunrise was not and is not spied on by Huawei,” says a company spokesman to the Tages-Anzeiger. However, Sunrise will continue to take precautions. “Sunrise addresses these claims in its contacts.”

Sunrise told the Tages-Anzeiger that it operates company-wide cyber security management processes. These processes do not focus on individual suppliers, but Sunrise says that no one can “preclude an attack by any third country with intelligence means via any components”.

++Swisscom revises policy to boost privacy of customers

Huawei denies any wrongdoing in Denmark. A spokesman for Huawei in Switzerland told the Tages-Anzeiger that the company takes the concerns of its customers “in terms of security and trustworthiness very seriously”.

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