Britain to review Huawei's UK-based cyber center

AP News
Posted: Jul 18, 2013 10:48 AM

LONDON (AP) — One of Britain's most senior security officials has been assigned to review a cybersecurity center operated by Chinese company Huawei following concerns that the telecommunications firm — which is playing an increasingly large role in Britain's Internet infrastructure — can't be relied on to police its own systems.

The government said Thursday that National Security Adviser Kim Darroch would review the workings of a Huawei facility known as "the Cell," — intended to ensure the integrity of the company's products, which include routers deployed across Britain's fiber optic cable network.

Lawmakers on Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee argued in a report that the Cell was set up too late and is too dependent on Huawei personnel to provide the oversight needed to ensure the system doesn't leave the door open to foreign spies. In recommendations published last month, the lawmakers suggested that Britain's eavesdropping agency GCHQ staff the site, which is run at Huawei's expense.

In a six-page response to the committee's report, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Darroch would look into the recommendations as part of his review and report to the prime minister later in the year.

In a statement, Huawei Technologies Ltd. said it welcomed the review.

"Huawei shares the same goal as the U.K. government and the (Intelligence Committee) in raising the standards of cybersecurity in the U.K. and ensuring that network technology benefits U.K. consumers," it said. "Huawei is open to new ideas and ways of working to improve cybersecurity. "

Huawei is one of the world's leading suppliers of telecommunications network equipment, but the privately held company's alleged links to the Chinese government have piqued anxiety in Western capitals over possible espionage.

Last year, a U.S. congressional panel recommended phone carriers avoid doing business with it or its smaller Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., for fear of putting America's infrastructure at risk. In Australia, Huawei was barred from bidding for work on a national broadband network — reportedly on national security grounds.

The British parliamentary report cited both of those decisions as it argued that Britain's government should exercise greater caution before allowing a foreign company to become "embedded in the heart" of the country's critical infrastructure.