Chinese technology company Huawei would have had free access to KPN’s mobile network in the past and could eavesdrop on all conversations. De Volkskrant writes this based on a secret report from 2010 which their editorial staff reviewed.
According to the newspaper, Huawei was able to eavesdrop on mobile numbers from the telecom provider at that time. This also included the phones of the then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, various ministers, and Chinese dissidents. Huawei also knew which numbers were tapped by police and intelligence services.
Huawei’s says it never acted inappropriately by abusing its position in the Netherlands. KPN says in a response that it has no indications that lines were tapped or that customer data was stolen.
KPN used Huawei’s technology in 2009. Six Chinese employees of the company worked at the then head office in The Hague. In that year, the telecom provider asked Capgemini researchers to analyze any risks associated with Huawei and how the Chinese company behaved within KPN. The domestic security service AIVD had already warned KPN several times about the risk of espionage by Huawei.
The conclusions turned out to be so alarming that the internal report was kept secret. “The continued existence of KPN Mobile is in serious danger because permits may be revoked or the government and businesses may give up their confidence in KPN if it becomes known that the Chinese government can eavesdrop on KPN mobile numbers and shut down the network”, de Volkskrant quotes the report. At the time, KPN’s mobile network had 6.5 million subscribers.
Unauthorized access from China
The Capgemini report stated that Huawei staff, both from within KPN buildings and from China, could eavesdrop on unauthorized, uncontrolled, and unlimited KPN mobile numbers. The company gained unauthorized access to the heart of the mobile network from China. How often that happened is not clear because it was not recorded anywhere.
KPN informed the news source ANP on Saturday that “it has never been established in all years that customer data was stolen by Huawei from our networks or our customer systems, or that it has been tapped.” If it had, the company said it would have “certainly informed the appropriate authorities and our customers.”
”Huawei employees have not had unauthorized access to KPN’s network and data, nor have they extracted data from that network. Huawei has at all times worked under the explicit authorization of KPN,” the Chinese technology firm said. “This applied to both employees of Huawei and the Huawei employees hired by KPN to support its activities.”
“Since our start in the Netherlands 15 years ago, we have never been held accountable by the government authorities for any unauthorized acts,” Huawei states in a release published Saturday.
Based on the Capgemini report, KPN decided to refrain from outsourcing the full maintenance of the mobile core network. To this day, the telecom company maintains its mobile core network itself, with the help of Western suppliers. To tackle the risks in the systems of the network, KPN said it was implementing an improvement plan.
De Volkskrant reported last month that the Chinese company also had unlimited access to the customer data of KPN subsidiary Telfort, and Huawei at that time also denied that its staff acted unethically at any point in time.