The UK takes the security of its telecommunications networks extremely seriously and has rigorous and tested procedures in place to manage risks to national security, says David Lidington, minister for the Cabinet Office.
“Next-generation networks like 5G raise security risks as well as opportunities for prosperity, and that is why the government commissioned a comprehensive review of the telecommunications supply chain,” he told the CyberUK 2019 conference in Glasgow. “This is a serious study. It is based on evidence and expertise, not supposition or speculation.”
Lidington prefaced his comments by noting that consistent levels of attacks through companies’ supply chains are among several “concerning” global trends. “Supply chains seem very much, in the eyes of criminals and hostile states, to be the ‘soft underbelly’ of the private sector and providers of critical infrastructure,” he said.
The comments come a day after the UK’s National Security Council (NSC) reportedly approved the use of Huawei’s networking equipment in non-core parts of future 5G mobile networks, risking the wrath of key allies around the world.
“The government is committed to strengthen significantly this country’s security framework for telecoms, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the secure roll-out of 5G and full fibre network,” said Lidington.
“We will not countenance high-risk vendors in those parts of the UK’s 5G network that perform critical security functions.”
The leaked NSC decision was criticised by foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, who tweeted that allowing Huawei into the UK’s 5G infrastructure “would cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to FiveEyes cooperation – there’s a reason others have said no”.
But Lidington said: “The government’s approach is not about one company or even one country. It is about ensuring stronger cyber security across telecoms, greater resilience in telecoms networks and more diversity in the supply chain, and we shall want to work with international partners to develop a common, global approach to improving telecoms security standards.”
The minister concluded his comments on 5G security by saying that the decisions of the 5G supply chain review, “as with any other review, certainly one of this complexity and scale, will be announced in due course and to parliament first”.
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