UK Security Heads Say They Can Handle Potential Huawei 5G Threat

GCHQ headquarters in UK

UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), an arm of the UK's GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) foreign intelligence agency responsible for detecting and dealing with cyber threats, has drafted a report against arguments for banning Huawei’s 5G technology from its networks, according to a BBC report this week. 

GCHQ: Huawei Security Risk “Manageable”

The NCSC didn’t say that the risk of Chinese espionage will be preventable once Huawei 5G tech is deployed by UK telecom companies, but that it should be “manageable.” Despite this relatively unclear conclusion for what defending against Chinese espionage via Huawei technology could mean in practice, the NCSC recommended the UK government allow UK telecoms to use Huawei technology.

Some UK telecoms, such as Vodafone, EE and Three, have been complaining about the cost of switching from Huawei gear, as the companies have already started deploying some 5G equipment purchased from Huawei or don’t want to throw away the old Huawei gear they’ve been using. Furthermore, Huawei’s technology tends to be cheaper than European or U.S. technology for networks.

To satisfy the new requirements imposed by GCHQ in order for UK’s intelligence agency to be able to better identify potential threats coming from the Chinese government, Huawei has pledged a $2 billion investment.

The advice coming from NCSC will be taken into account by the UK government, but it’s not the final decision on the matter. The UK government could still decide to ban Huawei’s technology from its networks after the full review is complete.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is reviewing the impact Huawei's technology has on UK national security, said its analysis was "ongoing":

"No decisions have been taken, and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate," they said in a statement to BBC.

Meanwhile, countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which represent four of the “Five Eyes” spy alliance, have all taken steps to reduce or completely eliminate Chinese technology from their critical infrastructures and for use within government agencies or the military. The European Union is currently debating how to best deal with Huawei’s potentially insecure technology too. However, certain German telecom companies, which have also invested in Huawei gear, have made their preference for Huawei technology known and have warned against banning it.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.