Britain yet to decide on 5G security policy: official

February 20, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain has not yet made any decision on its security policy for national 5G networks, the head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said on Wednesday, amid a furor over the alleged risks of using Huawei telecoms equipment.

Speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Brussels, NCSC head Ciaran Martin said equipment made by China’s Huawei was subject to detailed oversight in Britain and the government had strict controls over where it was used.

“It is not in any sensitive networks – including those of the government. Its kit is part of a balanced supply chain with other suppliers,” he said, adding that a policy decision would be made later this year after a government analysis is completed.

“Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei,” said Martin, whose NCSC is part of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and allegations of enabling state espionage, with the United States calling for its allies not to use its technology. 

No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the claims, but the allegations have led several Western countries to restrict Huawei’s access to their markets.

Pressure has been growing on Huawei in Britain, one of its most important markets in Europe, since a government report in July last year found that technical and supply-chain issues with the company’s equipment had exposed national telecom networks to new security risks.

Commenting on the report, Martin said: “As we said then, and repeat today, these problems are about standards of cyber security; they are not indicators of hostile activity by China.”

Martin said Huawei had pledged to address the problems, but acknowledged that doing so would take some years.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Foo Yun Chee; writing by Jack Stubbs; editing by Georgina Prodhan)

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