Deutsche Bahn under pressure for using Huawei technology
Berlin That the Deutsche Bahn (DB) despite growing international concerns about possible espionage in their digital infrastructure on components from Huawei is met with sharp criticism from the traffic light coalition. The FDP now even brings a legal ban into play. “The law needs to be tightened so that Chinese technology can no longer be operated in Deutsche Bahn’s IT network,” said the spokesman for digital policy FDP-Bundestag faction, Maximilian Funke-Kaiser, the Handelsblatt.
In view of the criticism expressed, she explained that there was “no warning” from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) about the use of Huawei-Technology. “Of course we follow the recommendations of the federal authorities.” The process is also explosive because the railway is 100 percent owned by the federal government.
The responsible Federal Ministry of Transport, meanwhile, is on the side of the railway. As an operator of non-public mobile radio networks, the group is neither obliged to certify critical components nor to notify the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the installation of critical components, a ministry spokesman told the Handelsblatt. Nevertheless, Deutsche Bahn is “in close contact” with the Federal Railway Authority and the BSI on all IT security issues.
Nevertheless, the actions of the state-owned company caused great resentment across all parties. The decision to use Chinese components “doesn’t make sense to me and sends the wrong signal to the domestic economy and to our international partners,” said Funke-Kaiser.
The SPD-Digital politician Jens Zimmermann raised allegations against the Board of Directors. “There has been complete ignorance of the problem at DB for a long time. From my point of view, you are trying to sit out the whole issue, ”said Zimmermann to the Handelsblatt. “I can only recommend that the board of directors take the issue very, very seriously.”
Federal government is examining Huawei components for the 5G expansion
Because of their proximity to the government in Beijing, Chinese companies like Huawei have long been under close scrutiny in numerous countries. The concern is that China could gain direct or indirect access to cellphone user data.
Hence, the US had Huawei and ZTE already classified as a threat to national security in 2020 and the restrictions on US exports to Huawei were tightened again a few weeks ago. So far, there is no publicly accessible evidence of espionage or sabotage. Huawei and the government in Beijing have always denied the allegations.
Nonetheless The federal government is examining the components for modern mobile networks according to the 5G standard from Huawei and its Chinese competitor ZTE for security risks. At the end of the day, telecom providers could be forced to remove components that have already been installed. In some other western states these are already banned.
The envisaged stricter rules in Germany are to apply to all critical infrastructure in the future, including rail transport.
>> Also read here: Government plans to ban Huawei and ZTE technology in the German network
Deutsche Bahn awarded the 64 million euro contract for most of the network to the Telekom subsidiary Business Solutions, which uses routers and distributors from Huawei. Their operating systems need to be updated regularly.
According to security experts, there is a risk that malware will be smuggled in. “Digital infrastructure is becoming a key battleground in the struggle for supremacy,” Reuters news agency quoted technology analyst Paolo Pescartore as saying. “And with the ongoing tensions between East and West, perhaps it makes the most sense for DB to look elsewhere.”
The Green faction deputy Konstantin von Notz referred to the high level of threat. “We have repeatedly had to experience the devastating effects that failures can have,” von Notz told the Handelsblatt.
In October 2022, the railway became the target of a sabotage operation that paralyzed rail traffic in large parts of northern Germany. Since two important cables were severed at the same time hundreds of kilometers apart, there is a suspicion that a state actor is behind it. The investigation has not yet been completed.
Union on Huawei use: “Completely naïve in terms of security policy”
Von Notz considers the award of the railway to Telekom and thus for Huawei to be difficult to understand. He recalled “urgent warnings” from the security authorities that should be “taken very seriously”. “Everyone involved bears responsibility – including and especially the operators of critical infrastructures,” said the Green politician, who is also chairman of the secret service control committee in the Bundestag.
The CDU-Security politician Roderich Kiesewetter admitted that Deutsche Bahn adhered to political guidelines and decisions. However, as is now known, they were “completely naïve in terms of security policy” and also endangered Europe’s technological sovereignty.
>> Also read here: Federal Ministry of Economics warns of possible Huawei ban for 5G wireless networks
Therefore, he thinks it is “fundamentally wrong in terms of strategy and security policy” to rely on Huawei for digital infrastructure, especially when it comes to critical infrastructure such as the rail network, according to Kiesewetter. This makes you “massively vulnerable”.