Huawei agreed to change a number of its policies and practices in the United Kingdom following several months of pressure from the British government which raised security concerns about the company’s telecommunications solutions, FT reports, citing insiders with knowledge of the development. The firm is said to have vowed to do so at this week’s meeting with the National Cyber Security Centre of the Government Communications Headquarters attended by several of its senior executives. The local branch of the Shenzhen, China-based conglomerate also agreed to provide the NCSC with written assurances it will address cybersecurity issues identified in a government report from July.
Growing distrust from London
Despite the fact that the report in question is nearly half a year old now and advocated for an urgent response on Huawei’s part, the Chinese firm downplayed its findings shortly following its publication, vaguely stating it will investigate its conclusions but not changing its security policies in any noticeable way ever since. An NCSC oversight board previously identified major deficiencies in the security component of Huawei’s network gear used in the UK, stating the company’s engineering practices were at fault for what were otherwise described as largely avoidable risks. Late last month, the NCSC opted for a highly unconventional move and publicly called for Huawei to respond to its July report after five months. The latest developments are indicative of the British government’s growing distrust of the Chinese company that’s now facing a risk of being stifled in its efforts to play a major role in the process of 5G deployment in the UK.
A troubled year for Huawei
Huawei endured a variety of difficulties over the course of this year, most of which stemmed from the regulatory opposition it’s facing from the United States. After the federal government and legislators pressured AT&T from carrying Huawei devices in early 2018, the Pentagon banned the sale of its products in and around American military bases around the world and Congress outlawed government-sanctioned purchases of the company’s equipment as part of the annual spending bill, citing national security concerns. Late last week, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a request from the U.S. government. The details of the controversial case remain vague but initial reports suggest the stateside authorities are looking into an alleged banking scheme that may have been used with the intent of commercial activity that violates the Commerce Department’s sanctions imposed on Iran.
While the U.S. is presently pushing its allies to drop Huawei’s equipment from their 5G plans, NCSC officials repeatedly said their primary concern about the company stems from its engineering proficiency, not the fact that it may or may not be Beijing’s spying tool. Ultimately, the Western intelligence community is largely in agreement that even as no evidence of large-scale, state-ordered spying on Huawei‘s part exists, the wariness toward the Chinese conglomerate is warranted due to existing Chinese laws that allow the government in the Far Eastern country to easily force the firm to comply with its information requests, no matter how broad or justified.