Huawei opens cybersecurity testing centre in UK

The Chinese telecoms company will work with government body CESG to guard against risks that its telecoms gear could be subverted and use to gain access to critical British infrastructure
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Chinese telecoms company Huawei has opened a cybersecurity testing centre in Banbury to certify its products for use in the UK's critical national infrastructure.

CESG, which is a part of government intelligence agency GCHQ, will oversee the testing process at the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which opened on 24 November, Huawei said in an announcement on Monday. In addition, the agency will provide guidance to make sure Huawei's hardware and software products meet British government standards.

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen image

Huawei's new cybersecurity testing centre in Banbury will join the company's main campus, pictured above, in Shenzhen, China. Photo credit: David Meyer

"The aim of this security centre is to address growing concerns from organisations, and from governments generally, about the safety of cyberspace and the need for built-in network protection to help society and businesses withstand malicious attacks from the outside," a Huawei spokeswoman told ZDNet UK.

The US has been vocal about concerns over the provenance of components in equipment, such as routers, that can be subverted by a supplier country to gain access to systems. There have been also been attempts to introduce fake components into the UK military hardware chain.

A CESG spokesperson said that the Banbury testing centre will in part address risks that equipment destined for the UK critical national infrastructure could have backdoors that allow hackers or a foreign country to take control of systems.

"We don't comment on specific cases, but there is always a risk that equipment is poorly designed or intentionally subverted," the spokesperson told ZDNet UK. "This centre, along with the network architecture and operational monitoring, is designed to help reduce and manage these risks. The arrangements with Huawei are consistent with our ways of working with the private sector."

The UK government and telecoms industry had been "open-minded and practical" about the development of communications technologies, said the Huawei spokewoman, who added that the Chinese company is 100 percent owned by its employees.

All personnel employed at and visiting the centre will be vetted, she added. "In order to meet the government's highest security standards, all security evaluation personnel of the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre must have approval from the CESG and only UK nationals who have developed vetting clearances will be able to access the centre," she said.

The centre will be used to test the information security of Huawei equipment for use by public and private sector entities, and the results of evaluations may be made available to operators and governments outside the UK, according to the telecoms company.

"Huawei is willing to share its experiences without reserve," its spokeswoman said. "We hope to work with many more governments and local industries in a similar, constructive way."

The opening ceremony for the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre  in Oxfordshire was attended by companies including BT, Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone. John Suffolk, outgoing UK government chief information officer, opened the centre, together with Ken Hu, the chairman of Huawei's global network security committee.

Editorial standards