ZTE launches Brussels cybersecurity lab as a transparency play

The lab's main purpose will be to allow regulators and potential clients to perform black box and penetration testing, as well as review its source code and documents.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor on

ZTE has launched a cybersecurity lab in Brussels in a bid to improve its transparency and alleviate concerns surrounding its telco equipment. 

The new lab, called Cybersecurity Lab Europe, was set up on Wednesday in Brussels to allow the company to gain better access to external security verification for its products and services such as its 5G equipment.

According to ZTE, the lab's main purpose will be to allow regulators and potential clients to review ZTE's source code and documents, and perform black box and penetration testing.

In addition, the lab will conduct in-depth research into security and the security used for its 5G equipment. The research will be conducted in partnership with "industry-leading security organisations", ZTE said.

The erection of a cybersecurity lab in Brussels follows the company building two other cybersecurity labs in Nanjing and Rome in May.
"ZTE's original intention of the Cybersecurity Lab Europe is to provide global customers, regulators, and other stakeholders with great transparency by means of verification and communication," ZTE chief security officer Zhong Hong said.

"The security for the ICT industry cannot be guarded by one sole vendor, or by one sole telecoms operator. ZTE is willing to play an important role in contributing to the industry's security along with its customers and all other stakeholders."

See also: Australians fear China but want its technology - Lowy Institute poll

ZTE's telco equipment is currently banned from participating in 5G rollouts in Australia and Japan, with the countries citing that ZTE and Huawei are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from Beijing. 

However European companies are continuing to work with Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei. All of the UK's main telcos are using equipment from Huawei -- ZTE's compatriot -- in their 5G rollouts, despite the UK government not yet making a decision on whether Huawei equipment can be used in the UK's 5G network.

Meanwhile, Orange España partnered up with ZTE last month to showcase various use cases for 5G networks.

In the US, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban US companies from buying, installing, or using foreign-made telecommunications equipment, citing cyber-espionage fears. The ban effectively targets Chinese equipment providers like ZTE and Huawei, although no names are mentioned in the executive order's text.  

Prior to this, ZTE was banned from buying US components after the company was found to have breached a US trade embargo with Iran. The ban was lifted in July last year after ZTE agreed to pay a tranche of a $1.4 billion penalty.

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