Monday 19 April 2021 12:22 pm

Huawei and Dutch telecoms firm hit back over spying report

Huawei and Dutch telecoms firm KPN have hit back at claims that the Chinese tech giant was able to eavesdrop on mobile users following a media report that has reignited the row over telecoms security.

A story published in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant this weekend cited a 2010 report by consultancy Capgemini for KPN, which it said raised concerns Huawei staff could have been monitoring calls without KPN’s knowledge.

The telecoms provider today acknowledged the existence of the report, which has never been published, but said it had found no evidence that Huawei was eavesdropping.

“No supplier of KPN has ‘unauthorised, uncontrolled or unlimited’ access to our networks and systems, or is capable of eavesdropping on KPN clients,” the firm said, referring to the De Volkskrant story.

KPN added that the Capgemini report had been intended to analyse risks and did not establish that Huawei had actually monitored any users or taken data.

“In all years, we have never observed that Huawei took client information,” it said. “Partly on the basis of the risk analysis in question, KPN at the time decided not to outsource full maintenance of its core mobile network.”

‘Completely untrue’

Huawei Netherlands denied that any of its workers had unauthorised access to the company’s networks or data.

The media story alleged that even calls to and from then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende may have been monitored. Huawei described these claims as “completely untrue”.

It is the latest flare-up in a long-running war of words over the Shenzhen-based telecoms group, which some Western governments have warned could be used as a vehicle for spying by authorities in Beijing.

In 2019 a Dutch government taskforce recommended stronger vetting of suppliers of telecoms equipment but stopped short of a ban.

Nevertheless, KPN last year said it had picked Swedish manufacturer Ericsson to build its 5G networks.

The UK has banned the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks, giving operators until 2027 to rip out any existing kit.

An upcoming report by a new government task force is expected to outline aims to ensure smaller telecoms firms are used in the network rollout following the Huawei ban.