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L’elefante nella stanza del 5G europeo [EN]

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Bert Hubert, fondatore di PowerDNS, spiega quali sono le preoccupazioni in tema di sicurezza nazionale e privacy dei cittadini di un possibile predominio cinese nell’infrastruttura del 5G (il prossimo standard di comunicazione per reti cellulari) e come, allo stato attuale, molti operatori mobili europei siano gia’ nella situazione di quasi completa dipendenza da tecnologia e servizi non europei.

In the 5G discussion, the assumption is that national, large scale telecommunication service providers are currently in good (or even full) control of their networks. The idea is that these providers (think Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Proximus, Orange, Telefónica, KPN etc) procure equipment, which is then shipped by the vendor to the operator.
The provider’s employees would then get trained on this new equipment, unpack it, perform tests, configure it and use it to build new networks. Subsequently, other provider employees would operate and monitor the actual network.
[…] In reality, most service providers have not been operating on this model for decades. Driven by balance-sheet mechanics and consultants, service providers have been highly incentivised to outsource anything that could possibly be outsourced, and then some.
In a modern telecommunications service provider, new equipment is deployed, configured, maintained and often financed by the vendor. Just to let that sink in, Huawei (and their close partners) already run and directly operate the mobile telecommunication infrastructure for over 100 million European subscribers.
[…] Since the early 2000s at least, most billing has been outsourced. This works by sending all Call Detail Records (CDRs) to a third party, often from Israel or China. A CDR stores who called whom and for how long. More data might be attached, for example the location of the customer, or where the customer was roaming abroad etc.
CDRs are powerful metadata which frequently get used in criminal and intelligence investigations. If these contain country or regional information (cell tower IDs, coordinates), they form a virtual trace of a subscriber’s activities.
It turns out however that customer invoicing is such a challenge that billing was among the first services to be fully outsourced to third & frequently foreign parties. In this way, there is no need to plant backdoors – data willingly gets sent out.
[…] Similarly, any worries about “the Chinese” being able to disrupt our communications through backdoors ignore the fact that all they’d need to do to disrupt our communications.. is to stop maintaining our networks for us!

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