Wednesday, 20 March 2019 10:47

US says British testing of Huawei gear inadequate Featured

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US says British testing of Huawei gear inadequate Pixabay

US Government officials have warned that the way Britain is going about building its 5G networks could be a threat to its national security if it used equipment from Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies.

A report in London's Financial Times said senior American officials had criticised the UK's method of testing Huawei gear before it was used, claiming that it would be sufficient to avoid threats to the telecommunications system.

For nearly two years, the US has been pushing countries it considers allies to avoid using equipment from Chinese companies, Huawei foremost, in 5G networks. But the US has produced no proof to back up its claims that these products could be used to spy for China.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with Washington's dictates, but Wellington has now indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. Huawei sued the US on 7 March, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

The FT quoted one official as saying that Britain's testing method may have been sufficient in the past, but claimed that since 5G was based on software, changes could be effected by software updates after the equipment had been installed after testing.

This individual said: “One analogy that we can often use is, one minute you’re holding a 5G coffee cup that is transmitting back telemetric data on what the temperature is what the actual liquid is inside. And then the next moment that object can turn into something radically different.

“While a huge opportunity, it is also deeply concerning to us from the perspective of national security."

When the American official was asked about the UK National Cyber Security Centre which carries out tests on Huawei gear alongside employees of the company in a test centre built by the Chinese firm, he dismissed it as a "technical mandate".

And he added: “Ours is a much broader question about how trust is changing in the way in which 5G networks will work in the future. Right now, back doors exist by definition, that’s how the manufacturer runs the network.

“We understand that there are a number of different opinions about that. That’s the concern we have and we are making that very clear to our partners.”

Last month, as iTWire  reported, Ciaran Martin, the head of the NCSC, said that any likely risk posed by Huawei was manageable.

"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."

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.

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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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