Huawei has reportedly given in to the demands of U.K. intelligence agencies to address serious risks in the Chinese company’s telecom equipment, a move which some see is a way to avoid being banned by the government from the 5G networks of wireless carriers there.
It’s a move that may have an impact on the Canadian government’s decision on whether to allow wireless carriers here to buy Huawei equipment for their upcoming 5G wireless networks.
The Financial Times of London this morning cited two unnamed sources saying Huawei has agreed to a series of technical demands which will change its practices in the U.K., according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The report says the company has also agreed to write a formal letter to the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) agreeing to urgently address the issues, first raised in a critical report in July by an oversight board that monitors the testing of the company’s equipment, before the government approves gear for use in networks there.
For the last seven years, Huwaei and the U.K. government jointly run a cyber security evaluation centre to find and mitigate any perceived risks arising from Huawei gear in parts of Britain’s critical national infrastructure. (According to the Globe and Mail, there’s a similar centre in Canada.)
That U.K. oversight board report concluded “Huawei’s processes continue to fall short of industry good practice and make it difficult to provide long-term assurance. The lack of progress in remediating these is disappointing. NCSC and Huawei are working with the network operators to develop a long-term solution, regarding the lack of lifecycle management around third-party components, a new strategic risk to the U.K. telecommunications networks. Significant work will be required to remediate this issue and provide interim risk management.”
The Financial Times report comes at a critical time for Huawei: The governments of three members of the Five Eyes intelligence co-operative — the United States, Australia, and New Zealand — have forbidden wireless carriers from installing equipment from Huawei and ZTE in their upcoming 5G wireless networks because of concerns Chinese companies are too close to the Beijing government. 5G networks will take a marked leap in data speeds, opening wireless to new solutions in industries that so far haven’t taken advantage of cellular technology. At the same time, critics point out that under Chinese law companies there are obliged to work with the government.
The U.S. has been pressuring the other two members of the Five Eyes group, Canada and the U.K., to follow the ban. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced in September that Canada is conducting a national security review.
The Financial Times story noted senior UK security officials have repeatedly stressed that their concerns are related to technical deficiencies and not the company’s Chinese origins.
It’s not only a sensitive security issue but also an economic one for Huawei: Bell and Telus use Huawei equipment in their existing 4G networks, but not, reportedly in their network cores. Huawei also funds a lot of university telecom research here.
IT World Canada has as the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security for comment on the Financial Times report, but no reply was received by time of publication.
Meanwhile, Huawei is under pressure from another angle after Canada agreed to a U.S. request this week to hold the company’s chief financial officer and daughter of Huawei’s founder, Meng Wanzhou, for extradition under allegations she violated American trade sanctions against Iran. She was changing planes in Vancouver. According to the New York Times, Huawei said allegations come from a New York judicial district. That could not be confirmed.
According to Reuters this morning, the United States has been looking into whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran since at least 2016.
A bail hearing for Meng was scheduled for this morning in Vancouver.
According to the Globe and Mail, China has vigorously protested Meng’s detention. “Detaining a person without providing an explanation has undoubtedly violated her human rights,” the paper quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying. It also quoted the Chinese embassy in Ottawa as saying Meng had not violated Canadian or U.S. law.
But the detention also comes as the U.S. and China are in the middle of attacking each other over trade issues.