Britain slams Huawei for failing to address security risks

Chinese telecommunication equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co. is putting U.K. national security at risk by failing to improve its devices and software, according to a report by its oversight body.

The annual report by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board, which examines how the company conducts its U.K. operations, concluded it has not seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s ability to improve defects in cyber security and software engineering.

The report identified:

Further significant technical issues in Huawei’s engineering processes, leading to new risks in U.K. telecommunications networks

“Significant, concerning issues” in its approach to software development, “bringing significantly increased risk” to U.K. operators

No material progress has been made by Huawei regarding issues reported last year

U.K. networks are less vulnerable than last year because the technical insight provided to British operators allows them to plan more effective defenses

A Huawei spokesman said: “The oversight provided for in our mitigation strategy for Huawei’s presence in the U.K. is arguably the toughest and most rigorous in the world. This report does not, therefore, suggest that the U.K. networks are more vulnerable than last year.”

The U.K. is preparing to roll out fifth-generation mobile networks and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright is currently considering the results of a review into the resilience of the telecom supply chain.

While yesterday’s report from Huawei’s oversight board makes clear it “has seen nothing to give confidence” that the company can fix its long-term security risk management, this is only one element Wright will examine before making recommendations to the National Security Council.

The Chinese company has a significant presence in the U.K. Huawei has signed contracts with all four U.K. mobile networks to test its 5G wireless equipment, deepening the Chinese vendor’s involvement in Britain’s telecom industry as officials weigh whether to ban the company over security concerns.

Although critical of Huawei, the U.K. is still no closer to putting in place any restrictions on the company. Taking a softer approach to Huawei could put the country at odds with some of its closest security counterparts, including in the so-called Five Eyes network, the pan-national intelligence sharing network which comprises the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

Officials from the U.S. have been warning allies over letting carriers work with Huawei. The head of the U.K.’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 Alex Younger has denied lobbying from the U.S.

The Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre is funded by Huawei, but is staffed by both Huawei employees and representatives from the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre. Based at Banbury in Oxfordshire, northwest of London, the center’s board is made up of around 35 U.K. security approved cyber experts. It was established in 2010 to provide insight for the British government into the company’s strategies and products. Kitty Donaldson, Bloomberg

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