Technology

Huawei 5G risk can be managed, say UK cybersecurity bosses

The National Cyber Security Centre will reportedly suggest concerns over the Chinese firm's presence in telecoms projects can be mitigated.

Any potential risk posed by Chinese technology giant Huawei to UK telecoms infrastructure can be mitigated, government cybersecurity bosses have determined.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has concluded that it can mitigate any risks posed by using the Chinese firm’s equipment in communications systems such as the upcoming rollout of new 5G networks, according to a report by the Financial Times.

The reported conclusion, which has not yet been published, comes despite ongoing fears raised by the United States over the safety and security of Huawei equipment, which it believes could be ordered by the Chinese state to gather data for intelligence purposes.

Huawei has always maintained it has no links to the Chinese government other than to pay taxes, and last week accused the US of a “geopolitical campaign” against the company in an attempt to gain leverage in trade negotiations with China.

The report suggests this new UK stance could convince other nations to soften their position on the Chinese firm.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has previously expressed concerns over Huawei, but former GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan suggested last week that the issue was too complex to simply ban the firm.

The tech giant said it was committed to working with governments around the world – including the UK – and that its sharing of source code with the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which includes UK Government officials, mobile operators and Huawei executives, had left the firm “naked” in front of those assessing it.

An NCSC spokeswoman said: “The National Cyber Security Centre is committed to the security of UK networks, and we have a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cybersecurity.

“As was made clear in July’s HCSEC oversight board, the NCSC has concerns around Huawei’s engineering and security capabilities. We have set out the improvements we expect the company to make.

“The latest annual HCSEC report will be published in the near future.”

Downing Street said “no decisions have been taken” yet.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “Our review of the right policy approach to 5G security and resilience is still ongoing, the review is looking at a range of options and no decisions have been taken.”

He added: “We are committed to ensuring the UK’s telecoms networks are fully secure. The Government and British telecoms operators work with a range of companies to manage cybersecurity risks while ensuring the UK can continue to benefit from new technology.”

Huawei’s chief marketing officer for wireless network products, Peter Zhou, said last week that “cybersecurity and privacy protection are the overarching priority of Huawei”.

“And the company has recently announced that in the coming five years an additional two billion dollars will be invested to further improve our software engineering capability so as to ensure that more trusted and reliable products will be developed,” he said.

Several countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand, have already taken steps to restrict or limit Huawei’s presence in its 5G network infrastructure over security concerns.

The new communications technology is expected to begin rolling out later this year, greatly increasing the amount of data that can be sent over a network.

However, Eric Xu, one of Huawei’s three rotating chairmen, recently suggested the US labelling of Huawei as a cyber threat was an attempt by the country to stifle the firm’s growing status as a tech industry leader.

“When we look at major equipment providers for 5G, you have Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE – as you can see, there is no American company here,” he said.

“Some other people argue that if Huawei equipment was used in those countries, US agencies would find it harder to get access to information about people or find it harder to intercept their mobile communications.”

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