Britain’s Defence Secretary has articulated “grave, very deep concerns” about the role of Chinese tech giant Huawei in the forthcoming roll-out of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile data network, because of the leverage and access Huawei’s equipment and software could potentially give to the Chinese government.
While British foreign spy chief Alex Younger has already raised concerns about Huawei, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson’s comments mark the first time a senior British political figure has joined the growing debate among Western nations on the security threat posed by Chinese technology.
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 20, 2018
Williamson said: “I have grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain. It’s something we’d have to look at very closely,” reports The Times.
Making reference to decisions already made on excluding Chinese technology from future data networks on which Critical National Infrastructure and broader infrastructure and personal data users are likely to rely on the future, the minister explained: “We’ve got to look at what partners such as Australia and the U.S. are doing in order to ensure that they have the maximum security of that 5G network and we’ve got to recognise the fact, as has been recently exposed, that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way.”
Fragile Society: UK Mobile Data Outage Causes ‘Panic’ https://t.co/W6xp7t1oz3
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 6, 2018
Concerns are rising in the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance — the intelligence-sharing enterprise between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, dating back to the Second World War — about so-called backdoors designed in Chinese technology which could allow data to be intercepted, controlled, or even turned off in the future.
Routing huge amounts of data through foreign-made technology is believed to hand unprecedented espionage and sabotage opportunities to foreign powers.
One such example of these concerns is in New Zealand, where the national intelligence service banned a domestic telecoms company from using Huawei equipment earlier this year. No public reasoning was given for the order, and Huawei has been involved in previous cell network rollouts in the country.
A 2012 U.S. Congressional report also identified Huawei as a security risk and warned mobile operators not to use their equipment.
And this month, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for all Western nations to eschew the company, remarking: “When I was in government, we were increasingly concerned about the penetration of Huawei and ZTE into Western democratic telecommunications networks… These are organizations, ultimately tightly tied to [the] Chinese security apparatus, and we think there are some really serious issues there.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 31, 2015
One of Britain’s major telecoms providers, BT (formerly British Telecom), announced in December that they had been working to remove all Huawei parts and components from their network since 2016, and would not be using any Huawei technology for their future 5G network either.
Huawei, for their part, denies their systems are compromised, and reject the accusation that the Chinese government has remote access to their equipment.
The fragility of telecoms networks and their massive importance to the data-intensive smart city was dramatically underlined in early December when O2, the United Kingdom’s second largest mobile network, lost all data for two days. Particularly impacted was morning commuters, accustomed to receiving live travel data updates to their mobile phones, and also having the ability to summon cab rides via mobile apps.
Among the transport systems impacted were London’s buses, which use mobile data to share location and timetable info, taxis which use mobile apps to hail cars and direct drivers, and even the city’s bicycle hire service, which uses mobile data to activate bike payment and docking stations.