Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant that some believe to be spying on behalf of the Chinese government, has reacted angrily after reports suggested that a number of UK government departments removed the firm’s video conferencing equipment amid fears that it could be bugged.
According to anonymous sources cited by The Sunday Mirror, three Whitehall departments removed the firm’s technology after concerns were raised that the video conferencing devices supplied by Huawei may contain security vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited.
The tabloid newspaper suggested a briefing note was sent to all ministerial departments urging them to stop using Huawei’s video-conferencing equipment.
The departments rumoured to have ditched Huawei’s equipment include The Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service.
Huawei said in a statement: “Our video conferencing equipment complies with global standards, to suggest it is specifically open to abuse would be misleading.
“Huawei is a private, employee owned company, we share the same goal as our customers to raise the standards of cyber security, to ensure network technology benefits consumers.”
The Cabinet Office was unable to confirm that three government departments have indeed removed Huawei’s equipment but it did say: “We take the security and integrity of all equipment used by both Government and the public seriously. We have robust procedures in place to ensure confidence in the security of our networks.”
Huawei claims that The Sunday Mirror’s original article contained several inaccuracies and at the time of writing the article had been taken offline. A Huawei spokesperson told Techworld: "To the best of our knowledge, only one government department has used Huawei’s equipment. I can’t say who that is but it does mean there are glaring inaccuracies in what Mirror has written, which is obviously something we’re taking taking up with them directly."
The news comes just weeks after the government ordered GCHQ to monitor Huawei’s new Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire, which is responsible for analysing the company’s equipment and ensuring there are no security risks.
Huawei is working hard to change its brand image by being a more open and transparent business after the US decided against using Huawei’s equipment to build their telecoms networks, with Michael Hayden, the former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, claiming that Huawei shared “intimate” knowledge of foreign telecommunications systems with the Chinese state.
In contrast, Huawei has been supplying network equipment for Britain’s national telecoms infrastructure since it was awarded a contract by BT in 2005.
Meanwhile, the company is investing £1.3 billion pound in the UK between now and 2017, with George Osborne announcing a new $200 million Ipswich R&D centre last October to compliment the firm's existing Reading HQ and several other UK facilities.
The news also comes after Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US, disclosed classified NSA documents to several media outlets revealing operational details of the PRISM surveillance programme.