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July 22, 2017

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Staff use cellphones with enhanced security: NSB

TAIPEI--Taiwan's National Security Bureau (NSB) chief said yesterday that bureau staff are issued with security-enhanced cellphones made by a local smartphone vendor and use a local telecommunication service provider.

Tsai De-sheng, director general of the bureau, told lawmakers at a legislative budget hearing that all high-ranking bureau officials and government staff handling intelligence information are provided with a security-enhanced cellphone jointly developed by the bureau and Acer Inc., adding that the phones use telecommunication services provided by Chunghwa Telecom Co.

Tsai was responding to questions raised by lawmakers at a meeting of the Foreign and National Defense Committee who expressed concern that Taiwanese officials are using telecommunication services provided by China's Huawei Technologies Inc., which could thereby pose security risks to Taiwan.

Of Taiwan's top three telecommunications providers, both Taiwan Mobile Co. and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. use equipment and services provided by Huawei, while Chunghwa does not, according to Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin.

Taiwan currently bans Huawei from investing in Taiwanese telecommunication and technology systems, but does allow it to invest in smartphone business and peripheral equipment, Tsai said.

Tsai pointed out that regular cellphones are not allowed to be carried inside NSB facilities and that NSB staff are forbidden to conduct conversations over non-secure lines.

He added that the specially designed NSB cellphones use security-enhanced chips with multi-layered security measures.

A line can only be secured when both ends of a phone conversation take place over NSB cellphones, he added.

About 500,000 hacking attempts take place each month aimed at the NSB's internal network system, Tsai continued. So far, they have all been detected and intercepted by the NSB, he said.

The security issue came to the fore after the U.S. House Intelligence Committee recently concluded in a report that China's Huawei and ZTE Inc. pose security risks to the U.S. because their equipment could be used for spying on Americans.

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