A technology firm with links to the Chinese military is reportedly bidding to supply equipment to the National Broadband Network (NBN), sparking security concerns.
According to a report in The Age, Chinese firm Huawei is believed to be preparing a bid to supply equipment for the NBN. However, security agencies in the US, the UK and India have already voiced similar concerns when Huawei Technologies were bidding to supply equipment in their respective countries.
Last year, the US National Security Agency blocked the company’s bid to supply equipment to AT&T, although Huawei did supply equipment to British Telecom despite initial resistance from security experts.
Desmond Ball, an intelligence expert at the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, told The Age that while he didn’t want to cause panic, "this is the highest order risk that I would see with regard to network vulnerability."
Bids by Huawei "would have to be subject to the closest scrutiny but in the end it would be the government's responsibility to reject such an involvement," Mr Ball added.
Gary Waters, a former senior official in the Defence Department accused the government of not taking the security matter seriously enough: "The threat is increasing and I think this is one of those threats," he said.
Huawei Technologies is the world’s second-largest telecommunications network provider, with Optus and Telstra already using their equipment. While Huawei insists it is privately owned, links with the military have continued to be reported.
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy told the newspaper that the government would guarantee "national security and resilience issues are addressed in the design and operation of the NBN."