In the United States, national security officials have expressed doubts on the integrity of Huawei and other Chinese telecom equipment suppliers when it comes to vulnerabilities that may allow the companies to siphon data from network users and pass along that information to the Chinese government to further potential trade or hacking advantages.
Now, the United Kingdom’s main intelligence agency is expressing the same doubts.
A new report from the GCHQ assesses Huawei’s networking devices to have engineering shortcomings that “have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management.” The conclusions were made after a string of recent, thorough reviews by a Huawei lab overseen by the British government. Specific concerns included limited product code checking abilities and the security of third-party components.
The report was released after it was found that Reuters had received information about some of its key findings from internal sources.
Huawei responded to the news, saying that is is “grateful for this feedback” in the report and that its lab is carrying out its objective as an independent check on the company. However, one source to Reuters said that this report marked a “big change” as GCHQ can now only assure with reservations that Huawei poses no threat to British national security. That will mean that the special lab will have a diminished role in reviews going forward. The lab is investigating if it can mitigate concerns around third-party software.
The company has insisted on a constant basis that it operates independently of the Beijing government and only follows domestic security laws per its foreign branches’ locations.
BT, Vodafone and Telefonica are some of the major telecom service providers Huawei serves. It recently announced a £3 billion investment plan for its UK operations after a high-profile meeting between chairwoman Sun Yafang and Prime Minister Theresa May.