GCHQ Director Says ‘Shoddy’ Huawei Security Engineering Led to UK Espionage Fears

A UK cyber security expert has criticized Huawei’s engineering as “very, very shoddy,” as the Chinese technology firm seeks to convince the US and other countries its 5G equipment is safe and secure.

Dr. Ian Levy, technical director of the Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the company’s “really, really poor” engineering was more of a concern than the potential threat posed by reports it has conducted espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

“The security in Huawei is like nothing else – it’s engineering like it’s back in the year 2000 – it’s very, very shoddy and leads to cybersecurity issues that we then have to manage long term. It’s just poor engineering,” he told BBC Panorama.

Levy was echoing the claims made just over a week by the Oversight Board of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) in its annual report, reads a new report from The Telegraph. This indicated that there are a plethora of security problems with Huawei’s communications hardware.

It suggested that Huawei’s technical problems were down to its shortcomings in software development, but added that despite repeated assurances – including promises of a $2 billion ‘transformation programme’ intended to improve security – the company had failed to make much progress.

One of the world’s biggest tech firms, Huawei said it is investing two billion dollars (£1.5bn) as part of a transformation programme that will tackle the security issues. Ryan Ding, chief executive of its carrier business group, told the BBC the firm hopes “to turn this challenge into an opportunity moving forward”.

“I believe that if we can carry out this programme as planned, Huawei will become the strongest player in the telecom industry in terms of security and reliability,” said Ding.

Several countries are scrutinizing the use of Huawei equipment in their telecommunications infrastructure amid concerns it could be a threat to national security. Chief among these is the US which believes the company’s alleged links to the Chinese government mean there is a significant risk of backdoors that could be used to facilitate state-sponsored espionage. Canada has yet to make a decision on banning Huawei or not for 5G networks.

Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations, claiming the US has absolutely no evidence to support them. Despite this, Washington has urged its allies to ditch Huawei from their communications infrastructure.

The government is set to publish a report in the next few weeks that will outline its verdict on the role Huawei can play in the country’s 5G network.

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