Monday, January 23, 2012

Huawei And ZTE In Telecom Security Tangle Of India

With the proposal to establish National Telecom Network Security Coordination Board (NTNSCB) of India, the issues of cyber security and telecom security in India have arisen once again. Even the national telecom policy of India 2011 reflects these concerns.

The issues pertaining to telecom security policy in India and telecom equipments security framework in India are not new. The home ministry of India and ministry of information and communication technology have been raising security concerns regarding telecom hardware manufactured by foreign dealers. Concerns regarding possible existence of backdoors in such hardware are frequently raised in India.

There is no mechanism in India through which telecom hardware and software can be analysed for backdoors and malware. Indian government has declared that telecom equipments must be certified by TEC before use in India. A proposal to store call data records has also been given. The norms for import of telecom equipments in India would also be formulated very soon (may be already formulated).

At present, India has two separate policy guidelines for import of telecom gear. Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE follow the July 2010 guidelines while Western telecom equipment manufacturers were given the option of following the policy issued in late 2009, after they refused to operate in India under the July rules.

According to latest news, in an internal report, the security unit of the department of telecommunication (DoT) has raised fresh concerns about Chinese equipment vendors - Huawei and ZTE. The report adds that India must also be on the guard against equipment from the West, including US and Europe. It has been reported that the new security norms had brought all these vendors under a common security framework.

To counter the possible threats from foreign hardware vendors, India is encouraging to develop indigenous hardware manufacturing capabilities. In fact, India has announced to give preferences, including tax cuts, to indigenously manufactured telecoms equipment, despite concerns raised by the United States and the European Union, which had said that such concessions would violate WTO commitments.

There is an urgent need to provide reasonable and sufficient regulatory norms regarding telecom security in India. The sooner they are formulated the better it would be for all the telecom stakeholders in India.