German stance on 5G security a 'positive step forward': U.S. official

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States wants foreign governments to follow Germany in adopting stricter security standards for next-generation 5G telecoms networks, a U.S. cybersecurity official said on Wednesday, adding that doing so would effectively rule out the use of Chinese equipment vendors.

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Germany last month set tougher criteria for vendors supplying network equipment, stopping short of singling out China’s Huawei Technologies for special treatment and instead saying the same rules should apply to all vendors.

The German decision was seen as a blow to Washington, which has led efforts to get Western governments to ban market-leader Huawei due to concerns its equipment could be used to support Chinese state spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

But Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications and information policy at the U.S. State Department, said Washington approved of the German move.

“We have encouraged countries to adopt risk-based security frameworks,” he said, speaking on a call with reporters on Wednesday.

“And we think that a rigorous application of those frameworks ... will lead inevitably to the banning of Huawei.”

“At this point we’re looking for governments to adopt security standards like we’re seeing in Germany. We think it was a very positive step forward in the German standards.”

The German rules stated that critical equipment should only be used after scrutiny and certification overseen by Germany’s BSI federal cybersecurity watchdog, and that “core components may only be procured from trustworthy vendors and manufacturers.”

German telecoms operators have opposed a ban on Huawei, saying that doing so would delay the rollout of 5G networks by years, and Berlin has pushed to assert its independence in the face of warnings by the United States that it will be unable to share intelligence with allies that use the company’s equipment.

Strayer said the U.S concerns went beyond intelligence sharing but that a policy decision had not yet been made.

“We also have so much more cooperation beyond intelligence,” he said.

“So it will, no doubt, if there are untrusted vendors in another country’s network, harm our ability to cooperate in a number of aspects.”

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Cassell Bryan-Low; Editing by David Evans/Keith Weir