The cybersecurity risks of using Huawei’s equipment in 5G networks are manageable, according to an unpublished report from British intelligence. Says two sources familiar with the contents of the report, authored by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), say it concludes that there are ways to mitigate security threats posed by Huawei’s equipment.
The report comes as the US moves to officially ban the use of Huawei’s hardware in future 5G networks. America has already banned government use of the equipment and is reportedly pressuring allies to do the same.
The primary concern is that China’s 2017 National Intelligence law could force companies to support the government’s intelligence efforts by opening up sensitive equipment.
The FT suggests that the NCSC’s conclusions could influence security policies across the rest of Europe. The UK is the only European country that’s a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada use to share intelligence data. The alliance means the UK has access to information the rest of Europe does not, adding weight to the conclusions of its security agencies.
Currently, two major UK telecoms networks have said they will not be using Huawei’s equipment in their 5G rollout plans. EE will not use the equipment for its core 5G network as per a 2006 policy enforced by its parent company BT, while Vodafone has said it’s “paused’ the use of Huawei’s equipment in light of the debate around its security implications. The two remaining major British carriers, O2 and Three, currently plan to use the equipment.
Last year, a UK government report raised concerns that Huawei’s engineering processes did not offer enough oversight to ensure that its equipment couldn’t pose a cybersecurity risk. However, the NCSC, whose Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Oversight Board was behind the report, has now told the FT it expects these concerns to be addressed.
The findings of this report stand in contrast to the attitudes and policies of other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. Last year, both Australia and New Zealand banned the use of Huawei’s equipment in their countries’ 5G networks. The fifth Five Eyes member, Canada, is yet to make a decision about use of the equipment, though some experts have suggested this delay is due to the ongoing detention of three Canadian citizens in China.