UK security chiefs have advised that the risk of using Huawei technology in the new superfast 5G could be contained despite US warnings about opening the telecoms network up to Chinese cyber-espionage, according to sources.
The US has reportedly been pressuring the UK and other allies not to use Huawei technology for critical infrastructure, arguing that it could be too risky when the Chinese state is engaged in spying.
Huawei has declared that it is owned by its employees, not the Chinese government, and its technology has already been used for parts of the 4G mobile network.
But concerns have been raised that its infrastructure is not secure enough, potentially allowing Chinese intelligence backdoor access to western telecoms networks – something the company denies.
Governments in the US, New Zealand and Australia have already moved to block the use of Huawei’s equipment as part of the future rollout of 5G networks
However, it is understood that the National Cyber Security Centre, a wing of GCHQ, will advise that the security risk of interference by the Chinese government should be manageable. It has been critical of security weaknesses posed by Huawei technology – which the company is under pressure to address – but, as first reported by the Financial Times, it is likely to advise that risks can be minimised.
The advice suggests the UK may be reticent to follow other nations in banning Huawei from supplying 5G technology. Speaking in Munich at a security conference last week, Sir Alex Younger, the MI6 chief, also suggested that an outright ban might not be necessary, although he said the issue was “complicated”.
The NCSC only gives technical advice, so the decision will be in the hands of the government, which is conducting a review of telecoms infrastructure due to be released in the spring.
A NCSC spokesperson 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 cyber-security.
“As was made clear in July’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (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.”
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