UK slams Huawei for failing to address security risks

LONDON • Chinese telecommunication equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is putting UK national security at risk by failing to improve its devices and software, according to a report by its oversight body.

The annual report by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board, which examines how the company conducts its UK operations, concluded it has not seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s ability to improve defects in cyber security and software engineering.

The report identified:

1) Further significant technical issues in Huawei’s engineering processes, leading to new risks in UK telecommunications networks; 2) No material progress has been made by Huawei regarding issues reported last year; 3) “Significant, concerning issues” in its approach to software development, “bringing significantly increased risk” to UK operators; and 4) UK networks are not more vulnerable than last year because the technical insight provided to British operators allows them to plan more effective defences.

A Huawei spokesman said: “The oversight provided for in our mitigation strategy for Huawei’s presence in the UK is arguably the toughest and most rigorous in the world. This report does not, therefore, suggest that the UK networks are more vulnerable than last year.”

The UK is preparing to roll out 5G mobile networks and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright is currently considering the results of a review into the resilience of the telecom supply chain.

While yesterday’s report from Huawei’s oversight board makes clear it “has seen nothing to give confidence” that the company can fix its long-term security risk management, this is only one element Wright will examine before making recommendations to the National Security Council.

The Chinese company has a significant presence in the UK Huawei has signed contracts with all four UK mobile networks to test its 5G wireless equipment, deepening the Chinese vendor’s involvement in Britain’s telecom industry as officials weigh whether to ban the company over security concerns.

Although critical of Huawei, the UK is still no closer to putting in place any restrictions on the company. Taking a softer approach to Huawei could put the country at odds with some of its closest security counterparts, including in the so-called Five Eyes network, the pan-national intelligence sharing network which comprises the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Officials from the US have been warning allies over letting carriers work with Huawei. The head of the UK’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 Alex Younger has denied lobbying from the US.

The Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre is funded by Huawei, but is staffed by both Huawei employees and representatives from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. Based at Banbury in Oxfordshire, northwest of London, the centre’s board is made up of around 35 UK security approved cyber experts. It was established in 2010 to provide insight for the British government into the company’s strategies and products. — Bloomberg