The recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou must serve to alert Canada to the real and present danger of state-sponsored espionage.
Back in October, U.S. Senators sent Justin Trudeau a letter, urging him to ban Huawei from using Canada’s 5G network.
Canada is currently in the pre-trial period of using Huawei’s technology to set up a 5G network partnered with cellphone carriers BCE and Telus.
Recently Huawei pledged to do “whatever is required” to get access to Canada’s networks. If we were smart, the desperation would be telling.
In the U.S. the concern about Huawei is non-partisan as the co-authors of the letter were Senator Marco Rubio (Republican) and Senator Mark Warner (Democrat).
The warnings also come from all levels of government.
During a Senate hearing, six heads of U.S. intelligence recommended that Americans should not use Huawei devices because of the inherent security dangers in the technology.
State-sponsored espionage in China
We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,”FBI Director Chris Wray testified.
The potential for Beijing to intervene and use the company’s technology to spy on Canadians is real considering the amount of control the Communist state has over corporations.
Canadians are not the only ones who are vulnerable to state-sponsored espionage; international students are also subjected to surveillance by China to ensure that individuals are not participating in any activities against the one-party system.
According to China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law all organizations are obliged to collaborate in national intelligence work.
Canada is ignoring warnings from intelligence partners
Canada is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance alongside Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Of these five nations, only Canada and the United Kingdom haven’t banned Huawei from their networks.
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have all blocked Huawei from access. Japan and France are also considering the ban.
Why would Canada not listen to its intelligence partner?
Any breach in an intelligence alliance like the Five Eyes would lead to a security risk for all members involved. Potentially the risk could be global.
CSIS said working with Huawei is a security risk for Canada
Even our own intelligence agency CSIS has been warning organizations against partnering up or using Huawei’s technology.
Several Canadian universities currently have research partnerships with the Chinese company.
Back in May, CSIS released an academic outreach report (PDF) warning post-secondary institutions about the potential risks.
“Beijing will use its commercial position to gain access to businesses, technologies and infrastructure that can be exploited for intelligence objectives, or to potentially compromise a partner’s security,” read the report.
China is using soft power to find its way into global dominance and without the checks and balances that private industry has in the West;it is highly likely that the Chinese government will take advantage of companies like Huawei.
Despite this some universities haven’t heeded the warning and continue their partnership.
For example, the University of Victoria is using Huawei technology and accepting money from the company to research automobile communication.
“To the best of our knowledge, the federal government has not issued any warning with regard to potential collaboration with UVic researchers that is restricted or may pose a threat to national security,” said David Castle, the vice-president of research.
Millions of dollars are being poured into Canadian research programs by Huawei. Among the universities accepting this money are the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, and Simon Fraser University.
The federal government needs to issue a national warning about Huawei
It seems that warnings from CSIS and our intelligence partners are not enough to keep Canada from endangering its national security. The federal government needs to listen to its partners and warn organizations and its citizens from using Huawei technology and accepting their money.
It seems that this is the only way that universities and other institutions will listen.
A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security warned that “State-sponsored cyber threat actors will continue to conduct cyber espionage against Canadian businesses and critical infrastructure to advance their national strategic objectives.”
Now is the time for Canada to get serious about cyber security before it’s too late.