Huawei has dismissed the U.K government's ban on its videoconferencing equipment, due to concerns over the vendor's links to the Chinese government, as "misleading" and based on "inaccurate" information.
U.K. government departments including the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and Crown Prosecution Service were reportedly instructed to stop using the systems during internal meetings amid concerns they could be embedded with tapping devices.
According to a report by the U.K.'s Sunday Mirror, a memo was sent to the ministerial departments instructing them to refrain from using the equipment due to potential "vulnerabilities". It added that government ministers were acting on "specific intelligence" given out at a top-level briefing with instructions for all departments to stop using the equipment.
Huawei in 2005 won a contract by British Telecom to roll out networking equipment for Britain's national infrastructure, and last year signed several contracts worth 125 million pounds (US$205.17 million). Following concerns raised by the U.S. government over security threats in deploying telecoms equipment manufactured by Chinese vendors, the U.K. initiated an investigation to "review the whole presence of Huawei" in its national infrastructure. The U.K. National Security Advisor last month called for tighter oversight of vendor's cybersecurity center in the country. Operated by its employees, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre analyzes equipment to identify potential security vulnerabilities and has examined over 30 types of products provided to U.K. customers.
The Australian government has also disallowed Huawei from bidding for government contracts.
The Chinese IT giant has rebuked the latest move by the U.K. government, saying the ban was "misleading" and based on unsubstantiated information. "Our video conferencing equipment is based on global standards, so to suggest it is specifically open to abuse would be misleading," noted a statement from its U.K. office. "We are a private, employee-owned company, and we share the same goal as our customers--to raise the standard of cybersecurity and ensure technology benefits consumers."
A company spokesperson further noted in a South China Morning Post report that "inaccurate" media reports were being taken seriously and reiterated Huawei's stance that it had no close links with the Chinese government. "We are looking into the possibility some equipment might have been sold to these departments through a third-party, but we have not sold such devices directly," he added.
Citing industry analysts, a China Daily report Wednesday noted that the latest ban was unnecessary, especially since revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden clearly demonstrated that cybersecurity threats were not dependent on equipment, but people's actions.
Xiang Ligang, a Beijing-based telecom expert, said in the report: "Huawei has been shut out of the U.S. market for the same reason, but from the Edward Snowden case, we see that the U.S. government, which doesn't use Huawei's products, was monitoring their own citizens, foreign diplomats, and other countries' officials."
He Maochun, director of the Economy and Diplomacy Research Center at Tsinghua University, added that it was unjustified to drop Chinese networking products based on fear rather than facts. "Many Chinese telecom companies such as Lenovo, ZTE, and Huawei are treated unfairly in Western markets for similar reasons. And the cases are likely to appear when Chinese telecom products are entering their markets on a large scale," He said.
He added that Chinese companies should improve transparency on information security and encourage foreign markets to have more confidence in their products. "Industrial associations and the Chinese government should try to support the companies to pursue more legal measures to protect the rights they deserve," he noted.