Thursday, 21 February 2019 10:14

UK cyber chief says any Huawei risk is manageable Featured

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UK cyber chief says any Huawei risk is manageable Pixabay

The UK is able to manage any potential security risks posed by using equipment from Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei, the chief of the country's National Cyber Security Centre has told a conference in Brussels, adding that there has been no indication of any suspicious activity by the company.

Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of the NCSC, told the meeting that Huawei's presence in British networks was subject to rigorous, formal oversight led by his organisation.

"Because of our 15 years of dealings with the company and 10 years of a formally agreed mitigation strategy which involves detailed provision of information, we have a wealth of understanding of the company," Martin said.

"We also have strict controls for how Huawei is deployed. It is not in any sensitive networks – including those of the government. Its kit is part of a balanced supply chain with other suppliers. Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei."

Martin's comments appear to confirm a recent report in the Financial Times that the NCSC had concluded any risk posed by Huawei to British networks could be managed.

The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is conducting a review of the country's telecommunications infrastructure.

Asked about this, a DCMS spokesperson told iTWire: "The security and resilience of UK's telecoms networks is of paramount importance.

"As part of our plans to provide world class digital connectivity through full-fibre connectivity and 5G mobile coverage, we are conducting a review of the supply chain to ensure a healthy, diverse and secure supply base, now and into the future."

iTWire understands that the review, which is expected to submit its report during the Western spring, is not a binary review about the country from which telecommunications equipment is sourced.

Martin said the NCSC had identified issues with Huawei's engineering and security processes last year.

"Last July, our annual Oversight Board downgraded the assurance we could provide to the UK government on mitigating the risks associated with Huawei because of serious problems with their security and engineering processes," he said.

"As we said then, and repeat today, these problems are about standard of cyber security; they are not indicators of hostile activity by China. The company has accepted these findings and pledged to address them, acknowledging that this will be a process of some years.

"We will monitor and report on progress and we will not declare the problems are on the path to being solved unless and until there is clear evidence that this is the case. We will not compromise on the improvements we need to see from Huawei."

As iTWire  reported on Wednesday, Germany has indicated it may snub the US and allow Huawei to play a role in 5G networks in the country.

The US has been campaigning for nearly two years to get countries it considers allies not to use Huawei gear in their 5G rollouts. Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line, but Wellington has now indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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