Are the Huawei security risks manageable?

29th January 2020
Alex Lynn

The UK Government's decision to allow Huawei technology into the non-core aspects of the UK’s 5G networks will have surprised some. In fact, according to a poll by GlobalData, it will have surprised a considerable number, as 47% of respondents said that they thought the Chinese tech giant was a security threat.

However, that isn’t a view shared by Malcolm Taylor, Director of Cyber Advisory at ITC Secure and former intelligence officer for GCHQ.

Taylor told GlobalData: “It’s the right decision. Firstly, the UK’s security apparatus – quite possibly the most conservative and risk-averse of all the machineries of government – reported that the Huawei risk was manageable.

“Second, the mitigations used to enable that risk management – including the Huawei cell in Banbury – must make Huawei one of the most scrutinised companies in the world.

“Third, there is no hard evidence of any espionage using Huawei technology, globally, and Huawei senior figures have made this point again and again and again. I hear you – no surprise – but go back to number one; the UK’s security apparatus believes the risk can be managed. What more do we need?

“There is risk in using Huawei – the point is managing it. Already heavily monitored (for goodness sake, decisions about Huawei reach the Cabinet!) and managed, Huawei can expect to see that scrutiny only increase. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), whilst reporting that the espionage risk from Huawei was manageable, has also said that Huawei’s cyber security practices were poor and needed work.

“The last few months might well (should) lead to them beginning to address these issues (and to be fair they have said they will, although in the less fair category of retorts we have heard that from them before). This time, the scrutiny, headlines, delays and loss of revenue should prevent that happening again.

“It’s a good, surprising decision. Now we must wait to see what the Trump administration will do. Put another way, whither the Five Eyes? We can read about it off our new, all-powerful and super-fast 5G phones!”

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