The UK government has welcomed the Intelligence and Security Committee's (ISC) call for a further review into Huawei's network security, questioning the effectiveness of its Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (the Cell), and calling for GCHQ personnel to run the unit.
The ISC called for the review in a public report, claiming the firm is failing to provide sufficient evidence to prove its network hardware and services are secure, potentially leaving UK telecoms vulnerable to a crippling cyber attack.
The government has since welcomed the report backing its findings. "The UK government has been able to leverage Huawei's reputational concerns to encourage it to invest in the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre and become more transparent about its equipment and business practices. This is a significant achievement. However, we question why the Cell is only now approaching full functionality, over seven years after the BT contract was awarded," read the statement.
"Given these delays and the lack of evidence so far that it will be able to provide the level of security assurance required, we recommend that the National Security Adviser conducts a substantive review of the effectiveness of the Cell as a matter of urgency."
The Cell was originally announced and created in 2010 after security concerns around Huawei technology used in BT and EE networks arose. The ISC highlighted the fact that the Cell is currently staffed by Huawei employees as a particular concern, arguing that GCHQ must have further involvement.
"Before seeking clarification, we assumed that Huawei funded the Cell but that it was run by GCHQ. A self-policing arrangement is highly unlikely either to provide, or to be seen to be providing, the required levels of security assurance. We therefore strongly recommend that the staff in the Cell are GCHQ employees," the report states.
"GCHQ must have greater oversight of the Cell and be formally tasked to provide assurance, validation and audit of its work, and the government must be involved in the selection of its staff, to ensure continued confidence in the Cell."
A Cabinet Office spokesman told V3 that the government supports the ISC's findings and plans to follow its recommendation. "We take threats to our Critical National Infrastructure very seriously and need to be responsive to changes in a fast-moving and complex, globalised telecommunications marketplace. We have robust procedures in place to ensure confidence in the security of UK telecommunications networks," said the spokesman.
"However, we are not complacent and as such we have agreed to the main recommendation of the report to conduct a review of Huawei's Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (the ‘Banbury Cell') to give assurance that we have the right measures and processes in place to protect UK telecommunications."
In response to the ISC report findings and government statement, Huawei told V3 it is continuously working to improve its technology’s security.
“Huawei shares the same goal as the UK government and the ISC in raising the standards of cyber security in the UK and ensuring that network technology benefits UK consumers. Huawei is open to new ideas and ways of working to improve cyber security,” the firm said.
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