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

By Naomi Scherbel-Ball | 22 October 2012

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 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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