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Huawei 'still a security threat to UK' – GCHQ

Huawei still poses a threat to UK national security, a major cyber report has concluded.

Despite previous assurances to address its vulnerabilities, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) found that the Chinese telecoms firm has made “no material progress”.

In its fifth annual oversight report, the NCSC said it could “only provide limited assurance that all risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks can be sufficiently mitigated long-term”.

It is the strongest warning yet from the body, which is part of the GCHQ intelligence organisation, but stops short of calling for an outright ban on Huawei technology.

In response, Huawei has pledged a further £2bn to address the problems, but NCSC sources say they have seen no evidence of how or where that money will be spent.

Furthermore, previous promises to improve its security have not been met, leading the report to say “the oversight board currently has not seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s ability to bring about change”.

Although the oversight report does not focus on future 5G, its findings will be crucial for the government when assessing Huawei’s suitability to bid for UK 5G contracts.

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The British government is already under severe pressure from the US, its partner in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group of nations, to sever ties with Huawei over fears of potential Chinese state espionage.

Fellow Five Eyes members Australia and New Zealand have taken steps to bar the Chinese firms from parts of its network.

Huawei technology is deeply embedded in the UK’s mobile and broadband networks. The oversight board was set up in 2014 to monitor that technology in the UK. The annual reports have got increasingly critical and it now seems clear that patience is running out.

UK mobile providers have already started testing 5G equipment with Huawei technology, and have warned that the UK could be left behind rivals if it takes the step of banning the Chinese firm.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is conducting a wider telecoms review which will include a judgment on future 5G provision – that is due to be published in the coming months.

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