Despite U.S. fears of China spying and hacking, U.K. cuddles up to Huawei

Despite U.S. fears of China spying and hacking, U.K. cuddles up to Huawei

Summary: British PM David Cameron was forced to defend the move, despite U.S. senators' belief that the Chinese networking giant is spying on the rest of the world.

TOPICS: Networking
(Image: Jay Greene/CNET)

The U.S.'s fears over Huawei's relationship with the Chinese government aren't enough to stop the U.K., its closest friend on the world stage, from embracing the networking giant with open arms.

Prime Minister David Cameron defended the U.K.'s decision to let Huawei build a significant chunk of the country's telecommunications infrastructure, claiming the bid was "pro-competitive" and "in the national interest."

Cameron also commented on the country's "very good" cybersecurity defenses, calling its efforts as "one of the most advanced" in the world, according to The Guardian.

Huawei supplies networking gear and technology which routes phone calls and data around the U.K., and around the world. The company works closely with the largest British telecom firm BT to supply switches and other gear to power the country's infrastructure.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives warned U.S. businesses off Huawei's telecoms and networking equipment. In a committee hearing last year, U.S. lawmakers were left "frustrated" and "unconvinced" by the testimony given by Huawei's top executives.

The allegations made by U.S. politicians highlighted that Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei was a member of the People's Liberation Army. 

Other allegations made suggested that Huawei includes backdoors and other deliberate vulnerabilities to allow the Chinese government to conduct espionage on foreign networks. 

Huawei strenuously denied the allegations. "While we recognise that there are some benefits associated with the current staffing arrangements for the Cell, these do not, in our opinion, outweigh the risks of Huawei effectively policing themselves," a company report published following the allegations said.

But concerns from across the pond pricked the ears of British politicians, which led to an independent investigation of the U.S.' claims.

British parliamentarians forced the hand of the government earlier this year to launch an investigation into the company's cybersecurity center in Oxfordshire. The same parliamentary committee on security and intelligence in June said it would review the company's relationship with U.K. telecoms giant BT.

But the U.K., welcoming the company with open arms — and a $2 billion investment — isn't put off by the fears.

The U.K. government is also reportedly ready to clear Huawei's cyber to operate in the country, so long as it promises to abide by tighter rules that would allay spying and hacking concerns — which at any rate is ironic considering the leaks from former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden lifted the veil on the massive joint U.K.-U.S. surveillance and cyberoperations efforts.

First reported by Reuters on Wednesday, there has been no firm word yet from Downing Street on the matter. 

Parliament's intelligence and security committee noted the 22 people employed at the cybersecurity center are all British nationals, and either ex-Government staff, industry experts or recent graduates. But the committee said that GCHQ should be formally tasked to provide audit and validate the work conducted by the staff at the cybersecurity center.

Topic: Networking

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Altruistic R US -- or Maybe Not?

    How much of this is a genuine concern of Chinese spying and hacking -- and how much is this actually America's concern that it just won't be as easy to install backdoors in a Chinese or other foreign-designed system? 50:50, I say.
    • backdoors...

      Well I guess the next move from China would be to ban cisco products...back door to the US NSA no doubt...look who looses now.
  • $2B reasons to give in

    The Chinese offer a $2b investment and people act surprised that our government has decided it's okay for them to be here?
  • Errrr...

    "pro-competitive" and "in the national interest." - More like Huawei made a very dirt cheap off they could refused and/or a few palms were greased.
    Seriously, the US's "closest friend on the world stage" is Canada. You poll a thousand Americans and the majority will choose Canada. Canada and the US shares way too much - from a common area code system, to one of the longest borders, to security [NORAD], etc. What does the UK share with the US [besides the war of Independence?].
  • What is Good Must Be Universal

    What the U.S. Congress did (in excluding the Chinese techs) is criminal. Beijing would have no alternative but respond in kind. Already the Big 6 (Cisco, IBM, Qualcomm, Microsoft, etc.) saw sales in China drop like a rock. If Huawei and ZTE are blocked from the U.S. market, there really is no justification to allow the American techs to profit in or from China - especially in view of the proven and still ongoing outright THEFT of data by the NSA and other alphabet soup agencies.

    Beijing is far behind the curve in legislation. At the least China should adopt the personal privacy protection laws recently promulgated in Europe (expected to harvest many hundreds of Billions in fines against the big U.S. techs such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and others). Moreover there should be explicit laws criminalizing the NSA type malfeasance, and which punishes the techs which collaborate. US$1 per byte stolen, trebled? Treble damages can also be calculated on the size the project, or the actual damages suffered, if any, whichever one is higher. There should also be mandatory jail term.

    What is good must be universal.