Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has been given the all clear, meaning that the use of its technology in UK communications networks does not pose a national security risk.
Concerns were raised in 2013 that Huawei had a controlling influence on the UK’s communications networks without sufficient scrutiny of its products or how they were being used.
The fact that the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which monitors the firm's technology in use in the UK, effectively ‘locked out’ government staff was also highlighted as a major concern at the time.
As a result the UK government said that it would take a closer interest in the company, creating an oversight board for the HCSEC led by Ciaran Martin, GCHQ director general for cyber security, and including officials from the Home Office and the Cabinet Office, and BT and Vodafone.
The oversight board has now issued its first report into the HCSEC's security and management arrangements and is confident that there are no immediate problems to address and that the centre is performing as required.
“HCSEC fulfilled its obligations in respect of the provision of assurance that any risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks have been sufficiently mitigated,” the report said.
It added that a report by Ernst & Young concluded that there is no evidence of outside interference in the HCSEC from Huawei in China.
“Ernst & Young provides sufficient assurance that HCSEC has operated with sufficient independence from Huawei headquarters,” the report said.
The report also revealed that GCHQ's Martin visited Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China in January 2015, along with James Quinault, then director of the Cabinet Office’s Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, and Dr Ian Levy, GCHQ’s technical director.
“They met with company leaders and held extensive discussions with Ken Hu, rotating chief executive, Ryan Ding, executive director and deputy chair of the oversight board, and Chen Lifang, Huawei’s board member for public affairs,” the report noted.
“They also met with a variety of cyber security specialists working for the company.”
The report also revealed that a new managing director of the HCSEC has been appointed. David Pollington, formerly of Microsoft, beat two other candidates to the position, which he officially started on 2 March.
However, the report noted that, while the oversight board was happy with the appointment, it felt that Huawei had taken too long to reach a decision and that it will monitor future appointments to ensure that they occur sooner.
“In the view of the UK government, [the appointment] took too long and was overly complex. Huawei has indicated that it will work with the government to optimise the process in the future,” it said.
Ding said that the company welcomed the report. "Huawei is pleased to be playing its part in providing reassurance to its UK customers of the quality of our products and solutions through HCSEC," he said.
"In the globalised, interconnected digital age, we must all work together to deliver the best solutions to the challenges we face.”
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