The Belgian State Security warns citizens about the risks that phones of Chinese brands can entail. This is because the Chinese government and tech companies are too closely intertwined. Belgium may want to ban Chinese smartphones from government services, among others.
Risk of Chinese telephones
The Belgian state security expresses its concern about phones from Chinese brands. Think of Xiaomi, OnePlus, OPPO, and Huawei. According to Belgium, the reason for this is that the cooperation between these companies and the Chinese government is very deeply embedded, including legally. There are seats reserved for the intelligence services in companies and cooperation is mandatory. The Chinese intelligence services also get access to the IT infrastructure of companies.
“We want to point out the potential espionage threat when using these devices,” said Ingrid Van Daele, the spokeswoman for the Belgian State Security to De Tijd. “We advise being vigilant. In addition to the mixing between those companies and the Chinese government, other countries have already expressed concerns about Chinese telecom companies and the risks to privacy and national security.”
Belgium is indeed not the first country to warn against such a Chinese threat, and it has been Huawei in particular that has been at the forefront in recent years in the United States and many European countries. Both Netherlands and Belgium have excluded Chinese tech companies from the core of the 5G network.
Yet there is one major concern about Chinese espionage and no one has yet made any evidence public. Belgium admits that it has not yet been able to identify concrete cases, but the State Security also says that its cybersecurity services lack the resources to thoroughly analyze smartphones for threats. The government service also states that too little information about this is shared between intelligence services at the European level.
The Belgian govt made the State Security report public at the request of Belgian MP Michael Freilich of the N-VA party. He argues that politicians should now do something with the recommendation of State Security. He not only wants a public list of ‘high-risk suppliers’, but he also calls for devices being partially banned. At least for government officials, the military, critical companies and their partner companies. The issue is still getting a tail in the Brussels parliament.