MANILA, Philippines – Vodafone, one of the largest telecommunications companies in Europe, found backdoors in Huawei equipment sometime between 2009 to 2011, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The identified backdoors could have reportedly given Huawei unauthorized access to the fixed-line network of Vodafone in Italy, which provides internet access to millions of homes and businesses.
A backdoor is a means of bypassing the security mechanisms of a computer system to access its data.
Bloomberg, who cited security documents of the telco and people close to the situation, claims the backdoors were found in home routers, optical service nodes – which handle internet traffic over optical fiber – and broadband network gateways – which provide authentication for subscribers to access the network.
“The ‘backdoor’ that Bloomberg refers to is Telnet, which is a protocol that is commonly used by many vendors in the industry for performing diagnostic functions. It would not have been accessible from the internet,” Vodafone said in a statement.
In a statement, Vodafone said that it asked asked Huawei to remove the backdoors in home routers in 2011 and continued to work with them in 2012 to resolve security vulnerabilities in their broadband network gateways. Huawei obliged and the issues were said to have been fixed in the same year they were identified.
They added that there was no evidence of issues outside of Italy.
“In the telecoms industry it is not uncommon for vulnerabilities in equipment from suppliers to be identified by operators and other third parties,” the telco said. “Vodafone takes security extremely seriously and that is why we independently test the equipment we deploy to detect whether any such vulnerabilities exist. If a vulnerability exists, Vodafone works with that supplier to resolve it quickly.”
People involved, however, said that the issues persisted even after 2012 and that they are present in Vodafone’s businesses in UK, Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
Vodafone has in numerous occasions defended Huawei against US allegations of Chinese spying. Vodafone Chief Executive Officer Nick Read warned that if Huawei were to be banned in Europe, it would only delay and make the 5G rollout more expensive.
The report adds that Vodafone stuck with Huawei for the competitive costs of their services.
A Huawei company spokesman, meanwhile, claims the issues are related to maintenance and diagnostic functions common across the industry.
“There is absolutely no truth in the suggestion that Huawei conceals backdoors in its equipment,” the spokesman added. – with reports from the Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com