The Department of Telecom has directed all telecom services providers in the country to carry out a special audit of their networks by an external agency to ensure security, Parliament was informed on Thursday.The move assumes significance as it comes at a time when there are renewed discussions in the country over allowing the use of telecom equipment supplied by China-headquartered firms due to security and surveillance concerns, especially amid the ongoing tensions between India and China on the disputed boundary in Ladakh.“Government is aware that in the modern age, the telecom equipments and networks used for provisioning of telecom services are prone to spyware/malwares, including the backdoor and & trapdoor vulnerabilities,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.The Minister added that all operators would have to undertake an audit of their networks or get their networks audited from a security point of view, once in a financial year, from a network audit and certification agency.“Further, the Department of Telecommunications, on December 6, 06.12.2019 has directed the telecom service providers i.e. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Reliance Jio India Limited, Bharti Airtel Limited and Vodafone Idea Limited to carry out a special security audit of their network by an external agency,” he said.Replying to a query on use of Chinese equipment by telecom operators, Mr. Dhotre said state-owned BSNL had 44.4 % of its mobile network equipment from ZTE and 9% from Huawei, while for MTNL, 10 % of the mobile network equipment was from Chinese equipment manufacturers.He added that Reliance Jio had not deployed any telecom equipment from ZTE and Huawei in its network, for providing various telecom services under its unified licence.“Vodafone Idea Limited, follows a multi-vendor strategy for procuring equipment for different requirements in its network and has always been compliant to the various security related requirements placed upon it by the DoT notifications,” he said.Bharti Airtel uses telecom equipment of several vendors partners, including Indian, American, European and Chinese, across the different network domains — radio, core and transport, and follows a multi-vendor approach for its networks to build robust and secure networks, he added.
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