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#NationalSecurity, Colombia: experts warn about risks from China’s 5G technology

As Colombia deploys its 5G network, experts warn about the potential cybersecurity challenges due to lack of adequate infrastructure and legislation.

Experts say that the country needs to build capabilities to adequately adapt to the complexities inherent to these networks, especially to protect itself from the risks associated with the technology provided by Chinese companies.


“Chinese laws create a framework where companies, especially those in critical technologies such as 5G networks, cannot refuse to cooperate with the government in activities that potentially compromise privacy and data security outside of China,” Carlos Augusto Chacón, executive director of the Hernán Echavarría Olózaga Political Science Institute (ICP) in Colombia, told Diálogo on March 25. “This represents a significant risk for any country seeking to implement 5G technology provided by Chinese companies, as this technology can be used to facilitate espionage activities or interference by the Chinese government.”

A recent ICP report details some of those regulations. These include the National Intelligence Law (2017), which requires Chinese companies to support and cooperate with state intelligence work; the National Security Law (2015), which imposes a responsibility on organizations and citizens to report and cooperate with state authorities on national security matters; and the Company Law (2013), which establishes the required presence of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cells within companies, further solidifying CCP control over company operations and reaffirming their lack of independence from the government and its agendas.

“One of the most important aspects to take into account in the development of 5G technology is that it uses a larger frequency spectrum, which leads to a larger number of antennas and connected devices,” U.S. magazine Cyber War reported on March 1. “This can increase exposure to jamming, espionage, and cyberattacks, both from malicious actors and from rival countries.”

While the fifth generation mobile network undoubtedly brings many benefits such as faster connection speeds and data transmission, it also generates serious and well-founded concerns that cybercriminals can use these same advantages to rob, defraud, or spy on people, Colombian magazine Semana reported on March 7.

“The most important thing is for people to be aware and educated to be able to respond to these cybersecurity risks. The other thing is to be very attentive to data management. The main objective of most attacks is to be able to make some kind of unauthorized use or theft of private or, let’s say, sensitive data,” Mauricio Arias Fernández, technology consulting partner at the auditing and legal consulting firm PwC-Colombia, told Colombian media 360. “The important thing is to be very aware of all the security against data management, from different mobile devices, computer equipment, with backup copies against data.”

According to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2024 report, Colombia is the second country in Latin America with the highest incidence of cyberattacks, reaching 17 percent. These attacks involved user impersonation and the exploitation of technological vulnerabilities in computers and public programs, Colombian daily El Universal reported on March 7.

“In the world the issue has been prioritized in different jurisdictions; it’s essential [for Colombia] to define a framework for international cooperation with third countries and industry, to actively participate in networks of international security experts in all issues related to 5G technologies, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity,” Chacón said. “It is necessary to design and implement cybersecurity training programs aimed at telecom operators, government entities, and the general public, to create situational awareness about the risks of technologies coming from Chinese operators for 5G networks.”

Colombia is a seductive market for companies that manufacture cell phones. A study by global data analysis firm Canalys, Colombian daily La República reported, identified that four Chinese companies are in the top five of the most marketed brands in the country and in Latin America.

“We must ensure the diversification of suppliers, in order to avoid dependence on a single supplier for critical components of the 5G network, to diversify the technological options available,” Chacón said. “Priority should be given to investments that contribute to the development of local technologies […] to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers, especially those that are questioned internationally or that create problems regarding independence and reliability for information and data management for networks, servers, and the cloud.”

Although 5G is not available throughout Colombia, a study by French firm nPerf, which measures internet speed, indicates that 13 cities can already access it thanks to three major operators, Mexican magazine El Economista reported. These include Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.

Source: Dialogo Americas

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