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US proposes new rules for national security risks in foreign IT equipment

The Commerce Department would use advice from Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence in making decisions to prohibit some telecommunications equipment.

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New rules have been proposed for assessing and prohibiting foreign IT equipment when national security is at risk.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

The US Commerce Department is moving closer to defining how it'll assess and respond to national security risks posed by telecommunications equipment from foreign nations like China. The proposed rules, published Tuesday, would see the department decide on a case-by-case basis whether something is "an unacceptable risk to national security or to the security and safety of US persons," and so whether to prohibit it.

This could include risks of sabotage or subversion of, and catastrophic impact to, the US' digital infrastructure by a foreign adversary.

The proposed rules will "demonstrate our commitment to securing the digital economy, while also delivering on President Trump's commitment to our digital infrastructure," according to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

The Commerce Secretary would make the decisions based on assessments provided by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence.

The Commerce Department is seeking comment on the proposed rules for the next 30 days.

It comes in response to an executive order from President Donald Trump back in May, called Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain, which came against the backdrop of anxiety over Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Huawei was blacklisted in May, with Trump's executive order essentially banning the company in light of national security concerns that Huawei had close ties with the Chinese government. Huawei has repeatedly denied that charge.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission also announced plans to cut funding off to wireless carriers using equipment from Huawei and ZTE, which it said may pose a national security risk.

Microsoft last week secured a license to continue exporting software to Huawei, however, after the Commerce Department extended a temporary license to allow American companies to do business with Huawei earlier that week for another 90 days.