huawei 5g

US says Huawei-built 5G networks pose ‘unacceptable risk’ to cyber security

Image credit: reuters

The US has said it will reconsider its data sharing arrangements with allies, such as the UK, who opt to use Huawei to help build elements of their 5G networks.

The comments come a week after the UK said the Chinese firm could be involved in building the “non-core” elements of the next generation networks.

“It is the United States’ position that putting Huawei or any other untrustworthy vendor in any part of the 5G telecommunications network is a risk,” said Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber, international communications and information policy at the State Department.

“If other countries insert and allow untrusted vendors to build out and become the vendors for their 5G networks, we will have to reassess the ability for us to share information and be connected with them in the ways that we are today.

“Having potentially compromised equipment and software provided by vendors in any part of that network is an unacceptable risk.”

He said the increasing use of software in the new networks for tasks previously carried out by computer hardware increased the “attack area” for attempted interference, while 5G would create “vast” quantities of new data.

“The temptation will be there to come after that data and use it for illicit purposes,” he said.

His comments put pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to reconsider the UK’s relationship with Huawei, which has long been said to have strong links with the Chinese Government.

As one of the largest infrastructure vendors globally, the firm is a difficult company to avoid for many mobile operators. Vodafone, EE and Three have already begun working on preparing their 5G offerings using Huawei equipment.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our position has always been that where national security concerns arise in any foreign investment, the Government will assess the risks and consider what course of action to take.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of the ministers said to have raised objections about Huawei’s involvement, said the Government needed to be wary in coming to a final decision.

“We are right to have a degree of caution about the role of large Chinese companies because of the degree of control the Chinese state is able to exercise over them in the way that would not be possible if they were large Western companies,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“That doesn’t mean to say that their role is automatically malign, but there are things like the 2017 law which requires all Chinese companies, whatever their ownership, to co-operate with Chinese intelligence services on any occasion.”

A hunt is continuing in Whitehall for the mole who leaked details of last week’s National Security Council meeting - when Huawei was discussed - to the Daily Telegraph.

Former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon even called for a full investigation by Scotland Yard and said that cabinet ministers attending the meeting should have their mobile phones checked to see if they contacted journalists afterwards and that if anyone were found to be responsible, they should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

“I would be very happy for anyone to look at my phone, as would my trusted special adviser,” Hunt said.

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