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Govt wants telcos to conduct security audit of networks

The department of telecommunications (DoT) has suggested companies undertake network audit on security concerns over spyware and malware vulnerabilities, minister of state for communications Sanjay Dhotre said in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The minister, in a written reply, said equipment and network used for providing telecom services are prone to backdoor and trapdoor vulnerabilities, and mobile operators are responsible for the security of their network.

The proposal to undertake security audit assumes importance amid the India-China border standoff. Tensions between the two nations escalated in June, when 20 soldiers of the Indian Army were killed in a clash with Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Since then, the government has taken several steps to bar trade with the neighbour, including the ban on more than 200 Chinese applications.

Separately, the DoT in December had directed all telecom operators such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd to undertake security audit of their network by an external agency.

Under the “Unified License, each licensee have to undertake an audit of their networks or get their networks audited from security point of view once in a financial year from a network audit and certification agency,” the minister said.

Dhotre clarified that the government does not maintain any data on percentage of equipment supplied by Chinese manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE. He said telecom service providers procure and deploy equipment from vendors based on their techno-commercial interests, provided all security provisions are met.

According to information received by the government, Reliance Jio does not use any equipment sold by Huawei and ZTE, while Vodafone Idea follows a multi-vendor strategy and Bharti Airtel uses equipment of Indian, American, European and Chinese vendors.

State-owned BSNL gets 44.4 % of its mobile network equipment from ZTE and 9% from Huawei, while 10% of MTNL’s network equipment is procured from Chinese manufacturers.

The minister also said the government has not banned purchasing equipment from Chinese vendors. However, he said an amendment in the General Financial Rules, 2017, allows the department of expenditure to impose restrictions on public buying from bidders of a country on defence grounds. Live Mint

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