Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, has been on the defensive in recent months as the US government has pushed for the company’s technology to be banned, alleging that it could be used by China for spying. Australia and New Zealand have already blocked mobile carriers from using Huawei for 5G networks, and other governments, including the United Kingdom, are reviewing the situation.
The National Cyber Security Centre declined to comment Monday on the specifics of the Financial Times report but said in a statement that it has “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security.”
The intelligence agency is playing an important role in a broader UK government review examining the security of technology that operators plan to use in 5G networks in the country.
“The review is looking at a range of options and will conclude in the spring. No decisions have been taken and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate,” the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement Monday.
A spokesperson for Huawei said Monday that the company advocates an open dialogue on security.
“Cybersecurity is an issue which needs to be addressed across the whole industry,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We remain focused on working with our customers to help them deliver world leading technology.”
A potential rift for the Five Eyes?
If the UK government decides that Huawei equipment can be used for 5G, it’s likely to strain relations with Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that the United States has been “very clear” with its security partners about the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecoms companies.
“We must protect our critical telecom infrastructure, and America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems,” Pence told attendees at the Munich Security Conference.
A British government oversight panel that monitors Huawei’s activities in the United Kingdom warned last year that it can provide only “limited assurance” that the company’s telecoms equipment poses no threat to national security.
The supervisory panel also said that “technical issues” had been identified in Huawei’s engineering processes, leading to “new risks in the UK telecommunications networks.”
UK could influence others
“Over the years that we’ve worked with Huawei, we’ve not yet seen anything that gives us cause for concern,” said Marc Allera, the CEO of BT’s consumer brands.
Samuel Burke contributed reporting.