The national security adviser has published a report today urging the UK government to keep a more watchful eye on Huawei’s Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which tests the Chinese firm's networking equipment for vulnerabilities.
Huawei’s technology is deeply embedded in the UK’s telecoms infrastructure after the Shenzhen-headquartered firm signed a deal in 2005 with BT to provide parts for its extensive broadband network.
The firm, founded 25 years ago by ex-military officer Ren Zhengfei, opened the cybersecurity testing centre in conjunction with the UK government's Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) in 2010. Part of the reason for establishing the centre was to allay security concerns.
However, the evaluation centre is still under the company's control rather than the government's.
The Prime Minister’s national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch recommended that staff working at the HCSEC, in Banbury, Oxfordshire, should be GCHQ employees, adding that if this isn’t possible, then the government’s oversight arrangements should be strengthened at the centre.
Huawei has faced some challenges with it's international business, particularly with United States, which is deeply concerned that the Chinese firm is building backdoors into its equipment that could be used by the Chinese government to spy on US communications.
In contrast to the US' approach, the UK is working more and more closely with Huawei. UK chancellor George Osborne visited the company’s headquarters in October to announce a new $200 million (£123 million) UK R&D centre, after stating that Britain is open to Chinese investment.
Huawei is now on a mission to make itself more open and transparent.
Huawei said in a statement: “We are pleased that the model of the UK Government, the telecom operators and Huawei working together in an open and transparent way has been recognised as the best approach for providing reassurance on the security of products and solutions deployed in the UK.
“We also support the review’s recommendations to optimise the management of the HCSEC and will continue to work with stakeholders to improve its capabilities.
“Huawei believes it is only by working together internationally, as vendors, customers, policy and law makers, that the challenge of global cyber security can be met.”