Photo: Reuters

UK-based telecommunications service provider Vodafone has refuted a Bloomberg report that alleges the company found “hidden back doors” in Huawei products, and that the Chinese equipment maker failed to resolve the issue.

The report cited incidents dating as far back as a decade ago, involving Internet routers and other network equipment on which security vulnerabilities were found.

Bloomberg referred to the vulnerabilities as “hidden back doors,” and subsequently published an editorial proclaiming the report was the West’s “smoking gun.” Despite an intense lobbying effort, the US has failed to convince allies in Europe that Huawei network equipment poses a significant security risk. Officials in several countries have pointed out that there is no evidence of Huawei using its network equipment for malicious purposes.

Vodafone pushed back on several parts of the report in a statement released through the British Broadcasting Corporation, including the allegation that Huawei failed to resolve the problems.

“The issues in Italy identified in the Bloomberg story were all resolved and date back to 2011 and 2012,” the statement said.

“The ‘back door’ 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.… Bloomberg is incorrect in saying that this ‘could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy,’” the statement continued.

“The issues were identified by independent security testing, initiated by Vodafone as part of our routine security measures, and fixed at the time by Huawei,” Vodafone stressed.

Huawei dismissed the issue as a routine case.

“Software vulnerabilities are an industry-wide challenge. Like every ICT [information and communications technology] vendor, we have a well-established public notification and patching process, and when a vulnerability is identified, we work closely with our partners to take the appropriate corrective action.”

Several countries, including the US, Australia and Japan, have already restricted the use of Huawei network equipment for use in fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks. But Europe bucked the trend this year, with Germany, the UK and Italy all declining to sign on to the US-led campaign against the Chinese firm.

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