Embattled Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies has agreed to British intelligence demands to address risks in its equipment and software, as the company seeks to be part of the United Kingdom’s 5G mobile network plans, according to a Financial Times report on Friday.
Huawei executives met with senior officials from Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), where they accepted a range of technical requirements to ease security fears, according to sources cited by the report.
The NCSC said in a statement that it was “committed to the security of UK networks, and we have a regular dialogue with Huawei about the criteria expected of their products”.
“The NCSC has concerns around a range of technical issues and has set out improvements the company must make,” it said.
Shenzhen-based Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment supplier, has come under heightened scrutiny after its chief financial officer was arrested in Canada last Friday on a US extradition request, raising fears of an escalation in the trade war between China and the US.
Beijing called the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, as a “despicable rogue’s approach” and part of a campaign to stymie China’s hi-tech ambitions.
Over the summer, Australia barred Huawei from providing 5G technology for wireless networks over espionage fears.
New Zealand followed suit in November, but said the issue was a technological one.
British telecoms giant BT Group, which runs the UK’s largest mobile network operator EE, said on Wednesday that Huawei will not supply equipment for EE’s core 5G network. It also has started removing Huawei gear from EE’s core 4G infrastructure.
That followed a warning from the head of the MI6 foreign intelligence service that singled out the Chinese company as a potential security risk.
But Robert Hannigan, former head of the Government Communications Headquarters intelligence agency that deals with cybersecurity, on Friday warned of “hysteria” over Chinese technology.
“My worry is there is sort of a hysteria growing … we need a calmer approach,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
British intelligence agencies have not “reported a back door or malicious intervention” by Huawei, and any official criticisms so far are of “incompetence rather than malice,” Hannigan said.
He warned that 5G mobile technology presented a different challenge given that more data is processed locally, making it harder to keep tabs on.