#Huawei accuses cyber industry of allowing ‘unacceptable risks’

| May 3, 2019

Telecoms giant Huawei has accused the cyber industry of not setting a high enough security bar to reduce international risks. The Chinese company says that over the past three decades it has not been responsible for any serious incidents, writes Phil Braund.

And, it strongly refutes allegations by America that Huawei poses an “unacceptable risk”. The Shenzhen based company has been working for the last eight years with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Huawei’s work has been strictly scrutinized along each process to ensure that no products have “backdoors”. But those reassurances have not assuaged a worried United State of America.

The US – currently in a trade war with China – believes if countries allowed Huawei to provide cutting edge 5G equipment it would compromise world intelligence security. Robert Strayer, the deputy assistant secretary for cyber security at the US State Department, said: “What we really have here is a loaded gun.”

He said America would need to “seriously look” at the risks of sharing intelligence with any country that has allowed Huawei to help build its 5G network. The UK’s National Security Council (NSC) agreed last month (April) to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the network, such as antennas and other “noncore” infrastructure.

In an ironic twist, details of the top secret NSC meeting between the Prime Minister and top security chiefs, were leaked to the press.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked when an internal investigation revealed he’d spent 11 minutes on his mobile to the journalist who broke the exclusive story.

Williamson vehemently denies he was the source of the leak.

However, since the UK and Huawei deal was made public it has been heavily criticized by security experts.

To ally those perceived fears Huawei’s Senior Vice President and Global Cyber Security and Privacy Officer John Suffolk said yesterday (2 May): “The UK does a very thorough review of everything that we do. One of the things that they pointed out was our products are complicated, and you have things in there that would not conform to what would be seen as today’s best practice.

“What we have been doing with the UK, and operators from around the world, is to take into account some of the latest thinking of how you accept that technology is never going to be 100% perfect from a risk perspective.

“And how do you make your systems more resilient in the face of attack, while accepting that you can’t write perfect code. In fact, no-one in the world can write perfect code.

“So, we’re looking at simplifying systems, making them more resilient and taking out the clutter. It’s all about managing risks, and there’s no need to panic on these things.  The reality is, the US, for whatever the US thinks as its policy objectives, wants to express a view which says in essence that you have to think twice before you commit fully to Huawei.

“Our view has always been that Governments should make their own decisions based on their risk assessment. Europe has to be in charge of its own decisions. So, we’re really pleased that Europe is coming out with its co-ordinated approach to 5G.”

The Chinese ambassador in London also quickly reassured the UK government that the claims were baseless. Liu Xioming said the American allegations were “scaremongering”. In a side-swipe at the United States – which has already excluded Huawei from its telecoms set-up – Liu urged the British prime minister to resist “protectionism”.

He said: “Countries of global influence, like the UK, make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests. When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development.”

The adjudged fear about Huawei arises from its need to legally comply with the Chinese state intelligence services.

Huawei says it’s not connected to the Chinese Government, but critics says its founder Ren Zhengfei was in the country’s army, and a member of the Communist Party.

On the technical front, Huawei says the worldwide telecoms sector must look long and hard at itself before criticizing others.

Abraham Liu, Huawei Chief Representative to the EU Institutions and Vice-President European region, said: “Trust must be based on verifiable facts, and verification must be based on standards. We believe that the telecom sector must set a higher bar for cyber security, with objective and unified standards, to reduce security risks at the source. There are currently no such standards in the telecom industry. Governments and industry organisations should work together to develop such standards.”

Huawei has set up three cyber security centres in Europe, all carrying out joint verifications with governments, partners and customers.

Liu also called on the industry to treat all equipment providers in a non-discriminatory manner.

He said: “Effective and fair competition is crucial to this market – it drives technological innovation, industry evolution and benefit socio-economic development. By intervening too heavily in the market Governments risk reducing competition, increasing consumer costs, harming network resilience, and ultimately hurting consumers.

“Europe cannot miss this opportunity to build a leading telecom infrastructure. We need a level playing field.”

The backlash against the technical titan Huawei has been vociferous, led by the United States.

Last year President Donald Trump’s administration launched a campaign to convince allies in Europe to ban Huawei from their telecom networks.

The foray into the West followed a boycott campaign against the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance – the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

Only the UK refused to block Huawei.

America claims Huawei’s equipment provides a “backdoor” for China to spy, however, it has produced no evidence to back those claims.

So far, the US European campaign has persuaded no one to deny Huawei access.

It’s claimed the Trump intervention is more about America’s trade war with China than “reds under the bed”.

While Europe has acknowledged the security concerns, it feels it prudent to weigh them against continuing to do business with its second biggest trading partner.

A delay on rolling out 5G could hold back the project by years, adding billions of euro to the final bill.

Over the past ten years Huawei has spent more than $2 billion on developing 5G.

It has signed worldwide 40 5G commercial contracts and globally shipped more than 70,000 5G base stations.

The company claims it is nearly two years ahead of the competition on 5G technology.

Indeed, it says a delay by the British government could, in terms of new technology, set back the UK by 18 to 24 months in its bid to deliver 5G.

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