Huawei’s UK security issues will take at least three to five years to fix
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According to a Reuters report, Huawei has warned MPs that addressing security concerns will take between three and five years.
Huawei is facing mounting international scrutiny over suspicions that it could be used as accomplice for surveillance or sabotage by the Chinese government; Chinese companies are required by a law introduced in 2017 to cooperate with national intelligence services. The company, its subsidiaries and a senior executive were also recently indicted by US prosecutors on 23 counts, including violating trade sanctions against Iran, bank fraud, and trade theft of T-Mobile robotic technology. Other Chinese technology companies, including fellow telecommunications giant ZTE, have also been cited as causes for concern by the US and its allies.
Huawei – the world’s largest telecommunications manufacturer – has been shut out from major projects in Australia, the US, Japan, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic, over fears of surveillance. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, acknowledged this week that it was necessary to consider “safeguards” to ensure that the Chinese government would not be able to access Germans’ data.
While no evidence for Huawei’s relationship with Chinese intelligence services has been presented publicly, the US envoy to the EU stated that there is “a lot of evidence, most of it classified” that Huawei has been involved in security breaches.
A July 2018 report by the National Cyber Security Centre found that technical and supply-chain issues with the company’s telecommunications equipment had exposed national telecommunications networks to new security risks. The report identified problems which limited researchers’ abilities to check internal product codes, and raised concerns about the security of components supplied by a US manufacturer.
Following the publication of the report, Huawei promised to begin a $2bn (£1.6bn) project to fix the problems detailed by the report.
Now, Reuters has found that a company letter sent to the Commons Science and Technology Committee from Ryan Ding, president of Huawei’s business group, that the issues are expected to take three to five years to produce results.
“Enhancing our software engineering capabilities is like replacing components on a high-speed train in motion,” Ding wrote. “It is a complicated and involved process, and will take at least three to five years to see tangible results. We hope the UK government can understand this.”
Ding added in his letter that the company “has never and will never” use its telecommunications equipment to assist in espionage activity: “Were Huawei ever to engage in malicious behaviour, it would not go unnoticed – and it would certainly destroy our business.”
The company has consistently denied claims that it could assist the Chinese government in its surveillance efforts.
A Huawei spokesperson told Reuters that: “We cannot add to what is outlined in the letter, where we have explained our position in full to the House of Commons Committee; and we are continuing to work closely with the authorities in the UK.”