Cabinet Office addresses 5G security issue

Cabinet Office uses NCSC conference to lay out government’s approach to the security of 5G networks, as controversy grows around using equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei

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”.

Read more about the Huawei affair

April 2019:

The UK’s National Security Council has approved the use of Huawei’s networking equipment in parts of the country’s 5G mobile networks in spite of widespread opposition.

John Suffolk, global cyber security and privacy officer at China-based telecoms equipment supplier Huawei, tells Huawei Analyst Summit growth is the best answer to US criticism.

Troubles continue for Huawei as new bans and government reports put security into question, but the company is attempting to fight back against the criticism.

If the UK government decides to impose tighter restrictions, or an outright ban on the use of Huawei in national 5G networks, the country faces severe consequences, according to a report.

Huawei has become one of the world’s largest technology companies by revenue, suggesting the accusations over its ties to the Chinese government are failing to have much impact.

March 2019:

Huawei has made no material progress on addressing the issues identified last year by the NCSC, according to the latest highly critical report from its HCSEC Oversight Board.

The chair of the Science and Technology Committee has criticised the government’s vague response to concerns about Huawei’s activities in the UK.

Vodafone’s CTO and general counsel have defended their use of Huawei equipment in their mobile network and challenged its detractors to show them evidence of wrongdoing.

Huawei has filed a lawsuit accusing Washington of violating the US constitution by banning it from government contracts.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has reinforced his attacks on Huawei as the firm apparently prepares to sue the US government over its federal-level ban.

February 2019:

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said America may scale back or cut military and diplomatic ties with countries that use Huawei equipment in national 5G networks.

NCSC CEO uses cyber security conference in Brussels to set out his agency’s position on Brexit, 5G security, Huawei, market incentives and international cooperation on active cyber defence.

A think-tank report has branded the UK government naïve at best, irresponsible at worst, over its use of Chinese networking equipment in critical national infrastructure.

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei has taken a more combative stance in the ongoing row over the firm’s alleged links to the Chinese intelligence services.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre suggests Huawei will be allowed to form core elements of the country’s 5G mobile network infrastructure after all.

Huawei’s Ryan Ding tells the British government that the company has never, and will never, use its technology to assist the Chinese intelligence services.

Malaysia has become the latest country to look into the security concerns surrounding Huawei, which has been accused by mostly western powers of conducting corporate espionage.

January 2019:

Vodafone’s UK CEO has said the operator will “pause” its use of Huawei hardware for the foreseeable future.

The chair of the cross-bench Science and Technology Committee has written to Huawei seeking answers over its activities in the UK.

Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping outlines the firm’s priorities to optimise its product portfolio, empower employees and build a more resilient business structure.

December 2018:

While the number of countries with Huawei bans in place grows and more issue warnings, a German investigation found no evidence of spying to support the fear.

The Chinese government has called for the release of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was detained in Canada at the weekend.

BT will remove Huawei’s networking equipment from the core of EE’s 4G mobile network.

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