India is currently in midst of a raging debate on Chinese goods – to be or not to be banned in India. In fact, a few weeks ago, a small company even gained momentary fame by distributing an app to identify & delete Chinese made apps on your phone. While some people argue in favour of informal ban (citizen-driven), others believe that closer engagement with China is required and even informal bans should be discouraged. Consumers have the right to decide what they want and what they value.
What about businesses on which the country depends on – Telecom, Banks, Stock Exchanges, NBFC, Pharma & other critical manufacturing plants? A country can be brought to its knees by a well targeted cyber-attack on these essential infrastructures. Few days back, when the Australian prime minister delivered the grim news that a wide range of the nation’s public and private sector organisations“ are currently being targeted by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor”, most people automatically assumed that the culprit is China… which should give us a pause to consider. This is something Indian businesses must think about & implement a well thought strategy in the current geo-political situation.
The backbone of India’s crucial Telecom infrastructure is full of Chinese equipment from ZTE and Huawei, as noted in this article: “Dependence on China in telecom sector makes India vulnerable”.
(Source: https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/dependence-china-telecom-sector-makes-india-vulnerable). Huawei is required, by Chinese law, to hand over data demanded by the Chinese government: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/huawei-would-have-to-give-data-to-china-government-if-asked-experts.html. Despite claims of backdoors (“Vodafone Found Hidden Backdoors in Huawei Equipment” Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-30/vodafone-found-hidden-backdoors-in-huawei-equipment), and counter-claims, a good thumb-rule to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty is “better safe than sorry”.
Now that security is increasingly on the radar of the Indian government, it has taken some steps to decrease its vulnerability on the telecom sector – it has also banned Huawei and ZTE from BSNL and MTNL. Additionally, two Indian Telecom companies have decided not to use Chinese vendors for their 5G roll-outs, which potentially reduces our security vulnerability, going forward.
But outside of telecom, in sectors like banking, quite a few Indian Enterprises (including major PSU banks) are using Huawei equipment (Source: https://e.huawei.com/in/case-studies). Which essentially means one thing: a significant chunk of Indian Enterprise is exposed and vulnerable to security issues.
If you are a bank or a financial institution, using Huawei networking & datacenter equipment, ask yourself a few tough questions – Is security and data privacy one of the key factors in selecting the vendor? Or Are we being penny wise pound foolish?
My point here is simple, there are very good alternates from reputed technology companies and also from Indian technology companies/start-ups. Take the long-term view and invest in safer options rather than focus on short term budget constraints. Indian Enterprises should support Indian Technology companies and ensure we have control on our destiny as proud Indians.