UK to probe Chinese telecoms firm over security concerns

Huawei TechnologiesBy IAN ALLEN | |
The British government has confirmed that it will review the involvement of a Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer in a cybersecurity testing center in Oxfordshire, England. The facility, called Cyber Security Evaluations Centre, has been operating since 2010 in the town of Banbury, 64 miles northeast of London. Its establishment was part of a 2005 agreement between firm British Telecom and Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei. According to the stipulations of the agreement, British Telecom would purchase switches and other hardware equipment from the Chinese company, if the latter agreed to set up “the Cell”, as it is known, in Banbury, to test the equipment’s security features. However, last month, a report (.pdf)  by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) raised strong concerns about Huawei’s involvement at the Centre. The ISC report called the government’s attention to “the risks of Huawei effectively policing themselves” and stressed that Britain’s national security could potentially be compromised by Huawei’s alleged links to the Chinese military. The report based its concerns on the fact that virtually every member of staff at the Banbury testing facility is an employee of Huawei, barring its Director, who is a former deputy director of Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The parliamentary report urged the government to overcome its “fear of jeopardizing trade links with Beijing” and pressure British Telecom to amend its agreement with Huawei. Instead of Huawei technicians, the ISC report suggested that the Banbury Centre should be staffed exclusively with personnel from GCHQ —Britain’s communications intelligence agency. Late last week, the UK Cabinet Office announced it was in agreement with the principal recommendations of the ISC report and said that a review of the Banbury testing facility will take place. The British government’s announcement echoes concerns by several nations, including Australia, India, and –most notably– the United States, which have openly accused Huawei of collaborating with China’s intelligence services. In 2011, a report by a research unit of the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Huawei Technologies relied on a series of formal and informal contacts with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of State Security. But a subsequent 18-month review commissioned by the White House found no evidence that Huawei spied for the Chinese government. A spokeswoman for Huawei told British reporters that her company “welcomed the decision to carry out a review” at the Banbury Cell. She also pointed to a quote in the British government’s response to the ISC report, in which Whitehall expressed confidence that Huawei’s telecommunications equipment “operated to a high standard of security and integrity”.

15 Responses to UK to probe Chinese telecoms firm over security concerns

  1. angry cat says:

    Do you mean that I dont have to worry about ECHELON, PRISM and all that gobbledegoo?. I only have to worry about Huawei. Yeah, makes sense. LOL

  2. TFH says:

    I congratulate you for not mentioning the new prince, something all the other news agencies and blogs are doing, even the Iranian and Chineese!

  3. Pete says:

    Huawei like every nation’s equipment providers must use communications equipment standards (providing security backdoors) that amount to collaboration with security services. This includes collaboration with the Ministry of State Security in China but also Huawei collaborating with GCHQ, MI5 and “Scotland Yard” in the UK.

    So I suspect Huawei’s commercial competitiveness has resulted in what is effectively trade barrier-discrimination by the US and UK against China.

  4. Pete says:

    Hi angry cat

    As PRISM is said to zero in on users of one or more of 70,000 keywords you may need to worry that “ECHELON” and “PRISM” – that you’ve used in your comment – are probably on the list.

    Also China’s MSS and/or PLA-IT may have its own PRISM-like program – mainly aimed at Mainland and “overseas” Chinese including those in the US.



  5. Chad says:

    I’m a lot more concerned about China having some access to internet traffic outside China than the NSA having all the traffic in the world. The NSA, being an American agency staffed by Americans, believes in all the core values I believe in. They’re average Americans.

    China’s government believes in furthering the goals of the communist party. They don’t seem to care about individual rights at all. If it doesn’t further the goals of the Communist Party if China, it is useless to them.
    They actively censor/restrict the internet. Citizens can’t go on YouTube or social media and blast their government’s policies without fear of reprisal.
    They have total control of the press. Has anyone seen the video of the Chinese newscast claiming an F-22 had been shot down over mainland China? Flat out fabricated news. It’s absurd.
    They try to rewrite history. Childrens textbooks have lies about China’s own history and historical boundaries.
    They restrict religious freedoms.
    Don’t even think about protesting the working conditions or wages. Actually don’t even think of protesting anything.

    Oh, I almost forgot.
    They have industrialized forced abortions.

    The NSA can do what they want with my internet traffic, just don’t let the Communist Party of China anywhere near me.

  6. TFH says:

    @Chad. Being able to criticize the rulers is the acid test of whether a society has a government that works for them or just rules them. Me personally hesitate to comment on obvious flaws in e.g. Russian and Chinese rule where human rights are concerned because a) I would like to travel to those two countries sometimes in future and b) They are not the leader of the free world and do not claim to welcome criticism as the essence of their whole concept of how democracy should work.

  7. Peter Wallerberger says:

    You hit the nail on the head Chad !! , well done.

    It’s also interesting to note that the New Zealand Government contracted the Oxfordshire Cyber Security evaluations Centre to test fibre optic terminals that Huawei is going to install in all New Zealand government institutions throughout the country !!

    Huawei haveing some time ago received a public endorsement of it’s products by no less than the Prime Minister of New Zealand !!

    Not that these (reverse engineered)fiber optic communication terminals are going too compromise any of our banking,defence,trade (or UKUSA program data connections at the top of the South Island)…………

  8. Pete says:

    Blocking Huawei from a national communications market with the expectation this would seriously hinder Chinese sigint collection is like blocking IBM and expecting this would make a big difference to the NSA collecting from your national communications.

    Chinese microchips are widespread….

    Calls and emails, even from Christchurch to Auckland, are digital and often-usually routed in Portions around the world. The portions are collected and rebuilt into usable messages by major sigint collectors such as those of the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India etc.

  9. TFH says:

    Chinese firm Huawei controls net filter praised by PM

    Would be interesting to know if the filter logs the ip numbers it blocks from gambling and pornography and who gets that info – UK government, Huawei filing clerks, China government or all of the above?

  10. Pete says:

    The filtering matter provides further evidence that what might be seen as an intelligence-surveillance activity by Huawei is in response to a UK government regulatory-censorship requirement.

  11. TFH says:

    It is truly baffling to watch the British PM push this proposal, a very irrelevant portion of his voters is pushing for this while he is risking an obvious political catastrophe regarding the majority of voters. Add to that the national security issues pointed out by media and how the PM’s circle still keeps defending the deal. As an intelligence analyst one has to wonder if there is more to the PM’s conviction than well … his conviction.

  12. Is this the UK’s attempt of squeezing foreign competition?

  13. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Number Direct – You are correct to a degree. Most countries will use any means in order to support their own large (Telco) companies and I guess this can only be seen as a form of Trade Protection particulary given the increase in Free Trade agreements that are supposed to remove tariffs and enable a ‘level playing field’ but in reality often remove protection for domestic companys that previously had no real competition. The results often lead to loss of employment as foreign suppliers easily undercut the labour and supply costs of produceing items.

    Where these foreign company’s are Telco’s, there is always an addittional problem and one of a more sinister nature. Not; I might add, without foundation when one is referring too the likes of the Chinese Company – Huawei. Nevertheless, despite this – Huawei produces some of the best Telecommunication Equipment in the world.(according to the Prime Minister of New Zealand)

    Maybe by the end of the day it all boils down to personal choice. Do you want your intercepted E Mails read by – The French Presidents wife, Edward Snowden & ‘associates’, a security cleared resident of Halifax / Canada, David Cameron, a dehydrated semi – literate Australian, an overworked underpaid , unloved KIWI or ” 3,000 Chinese university students” ? – I’ll leave it too you to take your pick !! (No offense intended)

  14. Peter C. says:

    The Huawei imbroglio is more likely the creation of Cisco Systems lobbyists than by real fears of backdoors. If the UK was truly afraid of letting one company monitor all of its internet traffic, then it would not have set up this system.

  15. Pete says:

    Giday Peter and Peter

    We dehydrated semi–literate Australians who work for Cisco Systems are as stunned as a dead dingo’s donga!

    We, to a man, are total illiterates.


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