China's Huawei Technologies should not have been permitted to become embedded in Britain's critical network infrastructure without the knowledge and scrutiny of ministers, UK’s lawmakers said on Thursday.
Allowing Huawei technology to become an integral part of UK’s telecommunications makes any potential cyber-attack difficult to detect or prevent as it basically gives China the power to covertly intercept or disrupt data flowing through Huawei-supplied networks, said the UK's senior intelligence watchdog the Joint Intelligence Committee.
Huawei, currently the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, has signed a major deal to supply equipment to BT in 2005. Despite concerns that China could exploit vulnerabilities in the Huawei equipment to spy on the UK, the committee said ministers were not informed about the deal until a year after it was signed.
"Such a sensitive decision, with potentially damaging ramifications, should have been put in the hands of ministers," the committee said.
Since then, Huawei has become a supplier for other UK telecommunications companies, such as O2, EE and TalkTalk.
As telecommunications equipment is considered critical national infrastructure, the committee believes Huawei’s ‘Cyber Security Evaluation Centre’, known as Cell, which was opened in Banbury, Oxfordshire, three years ago, shall be controlled by UK’s GCHQ signals intelligence agency staff.
The debate concerning China being a possible perpetrator of state-sponsored attacks has recently been stirred on both sides of the Atlantic. However, China denies any accusations.