Canada can’t afford to let Huawei into our 5G networks

by National Post Ivy Li

Putting our systems into Huawei’s hands would allow Beijing to threaten us with massive blackouts causing billions in losses

By Ivy Li

Amid Beijing’s trade war with Canada, the anxiety over the financial consequences of offending the Chinese Communist Party deepens. But would appeasing Beijing by allowing Huawei into our fifth-generation (5G) networks make real economic sense?

With the emergence of 5G and the Internet of Things, communications technology will be overlain on our energy grid, connecting it with myriad devices and utilities. This would create numerous access points for penetration, and a cyber attack could easily be disguised with the large number and variety of sensors. Munk Senior Fellow Christian Leuprecht and Queen’s University professors David Skillicorn and Arthur Cockfield have shown how extremely difficult it will be to police the updates of so many network switches. Our grid might be smarter, but it will also be much more vulnerable.

Our grid might be smarter, but it will also be much more vulnerable

The first confirmed cyber-warfare attack affecting civilians occurred in Ukraine just before Christmas in 2015. Power was cut off to 103 cities and towns. In a repeat attack in December 2016, the malware managed to disrupt Ukraine’s grid without the hackers’ manual intervention.

Many of us still remember the Northeast Blackout. On Aug. 14, 2003, 50 million people in Ontario and eight U.S. states lost power. Traffic lights and electronic signs were out and rush-hour traffic was jammed. Airports were closed. Financial services were interrupted. Cellular networks were overloaded. Retailers discarded large quantities of spoiled stock. Calls to emergency services skyrocketed, and Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital alone cancelled 800 appointments.

Eight nuclear plants in Ontario were shut down, as were many auto and steel plants and pulp and paper mills. Industrial plants in the “Chemical Valley” near Sarnia, Ont., were all impaired, spewing out clouds of black smoke from flaring products. Waste-treatment facilities spilled raw sewage into local waterways, prompting 59 boil water advisories. During the blackout, deaths spiked 28 per cent above normal. Accidents and exacerbated chronic health problems brought about by the outage led to nearly 100 fatalities in New York City. There were three deaths in Ontario, and Toronto saw a sharp increase in personal injury accidents, mostly pedestrians hit by vehicles due to lack of traffic and street lights.


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