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Huawei agrees to bare all about its equipment to IISc

Chinese co signs first such pact on data sharing

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore |
June 30, 2011 1:41:35 am

With growing concerns over possible malware being slipped alongwith telecommunications equipment by manufacturers,the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the home ministry have sanctioned a project to develop a safety certification regime for all such imported equipment. An agreement to this effect has been entered into by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and China’s Huawei Technologies.

The Chinese company has been under increasing scrutiny over suspicions of malware being tucked away into equipment supplied in India.

“The agreement is not a memorandum of understanding exclusive to Huawei. It is a non-disclosure agreement which is being negotiated with equipment suppliers. Under the agreement the manufacturers will have to pledge resources and give us data on the security of the equipment,” associate director of IISc,N Balakrishnan who is heading the country’s telecom security research initiative,said.

The basic premise of the agreement is that Huawei,who are the largest suppliers of low cost telecommunication equipment — from towers to routers — in India,will assist Indian agencies in scrutinising their equipment by providing data starting from manuals and extending to source codes. “There is no question of allowing Huawei a backdoor entry through the agreement. The information flow is going to be one way — them to us. No security information is being provided. We are only looking at the equipment,” said Balakrishnan.

In a quid pro quo,IISc will not publicise discovery of disruptive code without first informing Huawei.

“If a manufacturer is hiding malware we can smoke it out if the supplier is providing us certain data. We are trying to develop the techniques to assess the security of equipment and provide this to the equipment certification lab that was sanctioned in the budget this year,”said Balakrishnan.

The Indian telecom equipment safety certification lab is expected to work on the lines of similar labs in the US and China,to ensure that security vulnerabilities are not built into telecom equipment supplies. The lab will offer certificates known as Evaluation Assurance Level,starting from a basic EAL1 through to the most advanced EAL7,following the completion of a security evaluation on the basis of an international standard.

The government after imposing a nearly three month clampdown on the import of telecom equipment in early 2010,has now allowed imports carrying safety certification from designated international certification agencies. The high cost for an EAL 4 certificate,has deterred equipment suppliers from applying for them.

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