Tuesday. 30 September 2014

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MoD’s ex-head of cyber security: UK is open target to China

UK risks security by buying technology from China’s Huawei, warns former general

Any government should have substantial concerns about the activities of Huawei

Larry Wortzel, commissioner, US-China economic and security review commission

Britain is allowing Chinese telecoms giant Huawei too much access to its communications systems, warns the Ministry of Defence’s former head of cyber security.

Major General Jonathan Shaw, former assistant chief of defence staff, issued the stark warning in frank comments to Exaro. He accused the government of putting the economy before national security with its stance towards Huawei.

The UK government will be forced to take Shaw’s warning seriously because he had specific responsibility for cyber security at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for more than three years until April. He retired from the MoD in July after a distinguished 30-year career with the UK’s armed forces.

His concerns follow a US congressional report published earlier this month that raised security concerns about Huawei and another Chinese telecoms company, ZTE.

Shaw, who ran the MoD’s ‘defence cyber security programme’, told Exaro that the UK government should also be more concerned.

He said: “The economy is in such a mess that the government feels that it has to compromise on security in favour of continued economic freedom.

“So, it is dealing with the devil and I think that the government is very conscious of that now.

“Certainly there are enough people in the [intelligence] agencies who are saying that, but they are also aware of the economic cost of not dealing with Huawei,” adding, “The concern over corporate espionage is a bit like global warming. It is not today’s issue. But, by God, it is there.”

Earlier this year, Australia stopped Huawei bidding for a government contract on the grounds of national security, and Canada is reported to be considering following suit.

Huawei first entered the UK in 2001, and has invested especially heavily in the country since 2005.

As Huawei was under scrutiny by US Congress, David Cameron, the UK’s prime minister, welcomed the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Army officer, to Downing Street last September. Huawei then announced plans to invest a further £1.3 billion in the UK.

But Larry Wortzel, a member of the US-China economic and security review commission, a US congressional body, agreed with Shaw’s worries.

He told Exaro: “Any government should have substantial concerns about the activities of Huawei.”

A former colonel and intelligence officer in the US Army, Wortzel continued: “It is prudent to monitor all of Huawei’s activities in the UK and to keep Huawei out of government networks until a series of questions about the company are answered.”

Huawei denied the accusations against it, dismissing them as “rumours and speculation”, and saying that they were simply anti-competitive attempts to obstruct Chinese telecoms companies.

ZTE also denied the allegations against it, saying that its equipment was safe and posed no threat.

Huawei has struck deals with almost every major company in the UK’s telecoms sector.
 
In 2010, Huawei built an ‘evaluation centre’ in Banbury, Oxfordshire. It is run in co-operation with GCHQ, the UK’s signals-intelligence agency, to assess the security of equipment supplied by Huawei.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “The evaluation centre obviously works very closely with UK government security specialists, and that allows us to satisfy ourselves that the equipment coming into the UK meets our standards.”

A Huawei spokesman told Exaro: “We have been subject to UK government scrutiny and procedure since we opened our first office here in 2001. We have regular contact with the UK government and welcome all discussions and questions.”

Huawei’s first major breakthrough in Britain came in 2005 when it signed a contract with BT, the UK telecoms giant, to help upgrade the fixed-line telephone network.

BT says that using Huawei as one of its major suppliers has had no impact on its ability to ensure the security of its networks.

The intelligence and security committee, which reports to the prime minister, is examining Huawei’s relationship with BT. Consisting of MPs and peers, the committee is due to report before Christmas.

Shaw said: “There is the very real fear that the extent of Huawei’s current telecoms penetration could mean that in the long term we shall have lost so much intellectual property by the time we put our house in order that there will be no economy left to recover.”

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