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Wednesday, 21 February 2018 10:32

Britain sticks with Huawei, despite US fears

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Intelligence chiefs in the US may have accused Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei of spying, but it appears that the UK has no qualms about working with the company.

The top British cyber security agency, the National Cyber Security Centre, has reiterated its commitment to working with Huawei, saying it will "continue to benefit" from such collaboration, according to a report in the Telegraph.

In Britain, Huawei has a cyber security centre alongside members of the Government Communications Headquarters, the intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance.

The Huawei unit is known as The Cell and monitors threats and backdoors in its own hardware, with the researchers being overseen by the NCSC.

Last week, the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, told a US Senate hearing: “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.

"That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."

But, the Telegraph report said, the UK appeared to have taken a different path and rather than blocking the company, British spies from GCHQ worked closely with Huawei.

"Huawei is a globally important company whose presence in the UK reflects our reputation as a global hub for technology, innovation and design," an NCSC spokesman was quoted as saying.

"This government and British telecoms operators work with Huawei at home and abroad to ensure the UK can continue to benefit from new technology while managing cyber security risks."

Earlier this month, as iTWire reported, Huawei announced a promise of procurement with the UK worth £3 billion during a meeting between the company's chairperson Sun Yafang and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Beijing.

Huawei faced problems in the US in January, with a deal for AT&T to sell its phones on plans being cancelled at the last minute.

And following this, Verizon was reported to have yielded to pressure from the US Government to stop selling Huawei devices.

A Huawei spokesman told the Telegraph: "Huawei is aware of a range of US Government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the US market.

"Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cyber security risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities. We are committed to openness and transparency in everything we do."

The US is not the only country to harbour suspicions about Huawei. Australia, also a member of the Five Eyes intelligence grouping, denied Huawei any role in supplying equipment to the country's national broadband network project about six years ago, following advice by ASIS, one of the spy agencies.

And last year, Australia put pressure on the Solomon Islands to drop Huawei as the main contractor for an undersea cable project. The project was later awarded to the Vocus Group.

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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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