Huawei warns it could take 5 years to address UK security concerns

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Huawei has earmarked $2 billion to address security concerns raised by the organisation that monitors the use of the company’s kit in the UK’s network infrastructure but has said the process could take up to five years.

In an open letter to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Huawei rejected allegations made by some governments around the world that its equipment represented a threat to national security.

“Our solid track record in security is our strongest evidence [against the security allegations],” said Ryan Ding, the head of Huawei’s carrier business group. “The governments in some countries have labelled Huawei as a security threat, but they have never substantiated these allegations with solid evidence.”

Huawei UK

Several countries, most notably the US, have effectively frozen Huawei out of the market due to fears about links between the company and the Chinese government. These concerns are becoming increasingly common in Europe, too.

The main basis for these fears is a perception that Huawei is linked to the Chinese government and that the use of the company’s equipment risks the possibility of backdoors that could be used for espionage.

“We would like to reiterate that Huawei has never received any such requests [from the Chinese government] and in the event we did … we would categorically refuse to comply with it,” continued Ding. “Huawei is a closely watched company. Were Huawei ever to engage in malicious behaviour, it would not go unnoticed – and it would certainly destroy our business.”

Huawei is a key partner for many UK telcos and is subject to monitoring by the Banbury-based Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), a specialist unit formed in 2010 to monitor the use of the equipment in the UK’s network infrastructure.

In a report published last year, the HCSEC said it could only offer “limited assurances” that Huawei kit was safe to use due to a lack of progress in resolving previous concerns, while a visit to Huawei facilities in Shenzhen had identified a lack of scrutiny with third party components.

Huawei said it supported the role of the oversight board, adding that Huawei was the only equipment vendor in the world to voluntarily subject itself to such scrutiny, and said it would address any concerns the HCSEC had raised.

“Cybersecurity remains Huawei’s top priority, and we will continue to actively improve our engineering processes and risk management systems,” concluded Ding. “At our most recent board meeting, we officially signed off on a companywide transformation programme for our software engineering capabilities.”

“The company will initially invest US$2 billion over the next five years to comprehensively improve our software engineering capabilities.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.