A former head of the U.K. signals intelligence agency also said that there was no evidence of malicious Chinese state cyber activity through Huawei
The U.K. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has concluded that the country has the tools to mitigate the potential risk from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks, the Financial Times reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
The conclusions by the British intelligence represent a serious blow to U.S. efforts to persuade allies to ban the Chinese company from taking part in 5G contracts over national security allegations.
One person familiar with the issue told the Financial Times that the British conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders, as the U.K. has access to sensitive U.S. intelligence via its membership of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.
“Other nations can make the argument that if the British are confident of mitigation against national security threats then they can also reassure their public and the US administration that they are acting in a prudent manner in continuing to allow their telecommunications service providers to use Chinese components as long as they take the kinds of precautions recommended by the British,” the person said.
Robert Hannigan, former head of GCHQ, the U.K. signals intelligence agency, recently wrote in the Financial Times that NCSC had “never found evidence of malicious Chinese state cyber activity through Huawei” and that any “assertions that any Chinese technology in any part of a 5G network represents an unacceptable risk are nonsense.”
The conclusions by U.K. intelligence seem not to be shared by Australia and New Zealand, also Five Eyes members, which last year banned or blocked telecoms providers from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks.
Earlier this month, Politico reported that The Trump administration has an executive order in the works that would ban the use of equipment from Chinese vendors in U.S. telecom networks. A source with knowledge of the matter told Politico that there is “a big push to get it out before MWC,” sending a message to the international telecommunications industry ahead of the year’s biggest conference — although no such order has made an appearance at this point.
Such an executive order would escalate ongoing trade tensions between China and the U.S. as well as the global debate over the security of Chinese network equipment. The Trump administration has vigorously pursued action against ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran — resulting in an export ban that led to the temporary shut-down of the company last year — and has accused Huawei of doing the same, as well as participating in corporate espionage.
The Department of Justice recently outlined 23 charges against Huawei, two of its affiliates, and CFO Meng Wangzhou (who was arrested in Canada last December), from grand juries in Seattle and New York. The DOJ is alleging financial fraud and violations of U.S. trade rules as well as corporate espionage related to T-Mobile US’ development of a robot for testing mobile devices. The administration has formally requested Meng’s extradition to the U.S. to stand trial.
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