Government to review Huawei's UK cyber security centre

By Sooraj Shah
18 Jul 2013 View Comments
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The government is to review Huawei's Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (the Cell) and will report its findings later in the year.

The Chinese telecommunications firm, which has flourished on a global scale in recent years, has been constantly in the spotlight for its alleged association with the Chinese government - a link that it has denied. This hasn't stopped a host of Western countries from suspending a number of contracts with the equipment provider, including Australia and Canada, while a US committee deemed the company a "national security threat".

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The UK Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has recently pushed for the review of the Cell in its report on foreign involvement in critical national infrastructure.

In the initial report, the ISC said: "The UK Government has been able to leverage Huawei's reputational concerns to encourage it to invest in the Cell and become more transparent about its equipment and business practices. This is a significant achievement. However, we question why the Cell is only now approaching full functionality, over seven years after the BT contract was awarded.

"Given these delays and the lack of evidence so far that it will be able to provide the level of security assurance required, we recommend that the National Security Adviser conducts a substantive review of the effectiveness of the Cell as a matter of urgency."

In response, the government has said it agrees with the recommendation.

"We are not complacent and as such we have agreed to the main recommendation of the report to conduct a review of Huawei's Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (the ‘Banbury Cell') to give assurance that we have the right measures and processes in place to protect UK telecommunications," a Cabinet Office spokesperson said.

The National Security Adviser will carry out the review and will report to Prime Minister David Cameron later in the year. The adviser will also write to the chair of the ISC following the conclusion of the review.

The government also responded to other recommendations and comments from the ISC in its report. It agreed that when BT and Huawei began working together, the process for considering national security issues was insufficiently robust.

However it hit back at claims that there has not been any improvement since then in terms of an effective procedure for considering investment in the critical national infrastructure.

"The National Security Council (NSC), which was not in existence at the time of the BT/Huawei contract, can and does consider similar issues today in order to ensure that HMG's approach balances economic prosperity and commercial competitiveness with national security," it said.

In its initial report, the ISC said that the Huawei-BT deal raised national security issues, as intelligence agencies believed that China could exploit vulnerabilities in Huawei's equipment to tap into BT's network.

Update: In response to the government's comments, Huawei has said it "supports the decision that the National Security Adviser should review the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre".

"Huawei shares the same goal as the UK government and the ISC in raising the standards of cyber security in the UK and ensuring that network technology benefits UK consumers. Huawei is open to new ideas and ways of working to improve cyber security," it said.

 

 

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