Huawei defends itself against security concerns in letter to UK MPs

06 February 2019 | James Pearce

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Embattled Chinese vendor Huawei has written to the UK’s Science and Technology select committee to defend itself against recent accusations around its alleged potential threat to national security.

Huawei is facing exclusion from Canada, New Zealand and a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere after security fears, which the Chinese vendor denies. Huawei and its rival, ZTE, is already excluded from major operators in the US and Australia.

In response to questions sent by committee chair Norman Lamb MP, Huawei president of carrier business group Ryan Ding said the UK remained an “important strategic market” for the company and said it would continue to work closely with the UK government and operators to “address any concerns about network equipment” deployed in the country.

According to Ding’s letter, Huawei has created more than 7,500 direct and indirect jobs in the UK over the past five years, investing and procuring £2 billion.

On the question of reassuring the UK that Huawei poses no threat to its national security, Ding wrote: “Our solid track record in security is our strongest evidence. Over the past 30 years, Huawei has provided network products and solutions to nearly 1,500 telecom operators in mmore than 170 countries and regions.

“Our equipment continues to run stably and we have experienced no serious security incidents. Governments in some countries have labelled Huawei as a security threat but they have never substantiated these allegations with solid evidence. For us, the lasting support and trust of our customers worldwide speaks volumes.”

Ding also pointed to Huawei’s Cyber Security Verification Lab, which, in partnership with UK security services, tests the vendor’s telecoms equipment independently of the rest of the business. It also opened the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in 2010 in partnership with the government and UK operators.

The committee also asked Huawei how it responds to actions being taken by other governments, including a number of UK’s ‘Five Eyes’ security allies. Huawei CFO Meng Wangzhou is due to appear in a Vancouver court, where she faces a number of serious fraud charges from the US, which is wanting to extradite her from Canada. Meng is the daughter of the company founder Ren Zhengfei.

Ding responded by pointing out that Canada had not taken any restrictive measures against the company, while in New Zealand the government had “turned down a single 5G proposal” but the process was still ongoing. It also provides equipment in Australia, despite the government raising extra requirements for 5G deployments.

“We believe excluding a certain country or vendor does nothing to help effectively manage cyber security,” Ding added. “On the contrary, it only serves to create a false sense of security. If banning Huawei from networks would rid the world of cyber security issues, we would certainly be willing to make that sacrifice. But that is not the case.”

The letter sharply highlights the challenge that Huawei is currently facing. The US alleges 23 crimes against the company, with more potentially set to follow, as the “result of a long-term investigation” into the company, according to US Department of Justice attorney Richard Donoghue.

There were two separate unsealed allegations, one that the company stole intellectual property of T-Mobile US, the subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, and the other involving sales to Iran in breach of sanctions. Others remain undisclosed. Huawei has denied any wrongdoing.

With Mobile World Congress set to take place in Barcelona later this month, Huawei’s troubles are also on the agenda of globalmobile operators, many of whom use Huawei equipment in their networks. Members of the world’s mobile industry are thinking of discussing the Huawei crisis at their pre-MWC board meeting this month, according to several reports.