BT: working with Huawei isn't a security issue

11 Oct 2012
BT

UK authorities investigating Chinese network firm's connection to BT

The British government has been running a "private" investigation into Huawei's relationships with local tech firms, and is concerned with its ties to BT.

The Chinese network giant has come into the spotlight following a report by US authorities into whether its ties to the Chinese government is a security risk, saying the firm "cannot be trusted". Huawei denied the accusations, saying it would hurt its business to be influenced by its home country's government.

Now, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the UK's intelligence committee, told The Guardian that the government has been quietly investigating Huawei for months, and plans to issue a report to the PM by the end of the year.

We clearly recognise that increased globalisation of the telecoms industry means there is a diverse range of cyber threats to consider when building and securing networks

"We are looking into the relationship that has developed between Huawei and British Telecom and the implications for the UK," Rifkind told the newspaper. "We wanted to look at the historical background to that contract, to what extent there were security concerns at the time, whether and to what extend the British government were involved in these decisions, and whether there have been any causes for concern that have arisen since Huawei became involved in our telecoms infrastructure."

BT has worked with Huawei for seven years, the report said, and is a supplier for its fibre rollout. BT doesn't think the partnership is a security concern, and suggested Huawei's work already had government approval.

"We clearly recognise that increased globalisation of the telecoms industry means there is a diverse range of cyber threats to consider when building and securing networks," a BT spokesman said.

"BT takes a risk-management approach on the use of components from Huawei and, like the UK Government, we see no need to change our position following the US Report," BT added. "We work closely with Huawei on commercial security best practice and our relationship with Huawei is managed strictly in accordance with UK laws."

"BT's network is underpinned by robust security controls and built-in resilience," the company added. "We always work closely with each of our suppliers - and government where appropriate - to gain assurance through rigorous review that the security of the network is not compromised."

Huawei works with most of the major telecoms firms in the UK - EE, O2, Orange, 3, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Sky and T-Mobile - notably working on 4G projects with such firms. It has 650 UK workers, 70% of whom are local hires, its website says.

Aside from the US, the Australian government has also blocked sensitive projects with the firm, and Canadian authorities are considering doing the same.

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