Defending America’s cyberfrontier with a 5G ‘clean path’



The U.S. Department of State will begin requiring a “clean path” for all 5G network traffic between U.S. diplomatic facilities and the United States, as U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas move toward adopting 5G-enabled technology.



“Simply put, in upcoming 5G networks, mobile data traffic entering American diplomatic systems will be subject to new, stringent requirements if it has transited Huawei equipment,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said April 29.

Fifth-generation (5G) wireless internet promises to be amazingly fast, but it also comes with significant risks from untrustworthy vendors, such as telecommunications equipment firms Huawei and ZTE from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

PRC firms are required by the country’s National Intelligence Law to “support, assist, and
cooperate with national intelligence efforts,” and keep all such cooperation a secret.

“We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data and our networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.

The goal of the State Department’s “5G Clean Path” policy is to deny untrusted IT vendors access to State Department systems.

The State Department has previously expressed concern over the security of 5G networks, in particular those that include equipment or software from PRC companies.

The concerns are based on China’s own laws. PRC telecom vendors are required by law to serve the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and its intelligence services. If Huawei or other Chinese equipment manufacturers build a country’s underlying infrastructure for 5G, then the Chinese government would have the potential to exert control over those networks.

An untrusted vendor could skim data that travels over another country’s 5G network, either to degrade services dependent on the data or to access confidential information. The vendor also could be compelled to disrupt or manipulate critical services that run over the network.

Just as America takes “action to defend our physical borders, so too are we defending America on cyberfrontiers,” Pompeo said.

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