Huawei’s telecom gear has been subject to close scrutiny in the UK by a GCHQ –staffed unit that issued several critical reports regarding the software’s alleged security flaws, as Downing Street has yet to take a final decision on granting the Chinese tech firm access to its 5G network.
The Finnish company Nokia, one of Chinese tech giant Huawei’s biggest rivals, has issued a warning to the UK overusing the ostracised Chinese firm’s equipment, claiming the vulnerabilities of its 5G kit rendered it a risk to 5G networks, reports the BBC.
Nokia’s chief technology officer Marcus Weldon deplored the “unfair” financial advantages Huawei had enjoyed in the past and claimed the current US crackdown on the Chinese tech company was offering a counterbalance.
“It’s fairness returning to the market,” he said.
“We were disadvantaged in the past relative to the practices that the Chinese were allowed to have in terms of funding mechanisms.”
According to Weldon, Nokia’s equipment was “a safer bet” for mobile operators, as he cited a new report from US security firm Finite State, which outlined existing vulnerabilities in Huawei networking equipment.
The report stated that “in virtually all categories, we found Huawei devices to be less secure than comparable devices from other vendors.”
Weldon said Huawei’s failings were serious:
“Some of it seems to be just sloppiness, honestly, that they haven’t patched things, they haven’t upgraded. But some of it is real obfuscation, where they make it look like they have the secure version when they don’t.”
“In virtually all categories we studied,” the report said, “we found Huawei devices to be less secure than comparable devices from other vendors.”
A spokesman for Huawei, which has denied its equipment poses a security risk, said:
“These comments are misleading.”
“We believe secure, resilient networks can only be delivered by collaboration across the whole industry, working to common standards on privacy protection and cyber-security, so that all participants can be judged equally.”
“We have a proven track record of delivering secure, trustworthy and high quality products to every major telecoms operator in Europe. Cyber-security remains Huawei’s top priority and here, in the UK, we are subject to the most rigorous oversight compared to any competitors in our sector.”
A GCHQ–staffed unit in the UK has been scrutinising Huawei’s telecom equipment and reported finding security flaws in the software. However, no mention was made of finding backdoors in the Huawei products.
Downing Street has yet to take a final decision regarding allowing the Chinese tech firm access to its 5G network, as UK mobile operators have warned that a ban on the Asian company’s gear would spell a delay in the rollout and incur added costs.
In April, details of a meeting of the UK’s National Security Council to discuss Huawei’s role in UK telecoms infrastructure were leaked, leading to a report that Prime Minister Theresa May would grant Huawei limited access.
Following an investigation into the leak, then-defence secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked, despite denying complicity. The government has since said no decision has been made over Huawei’s presence in 5G networks.
The developments come amid an ongoing US crackdown on the Chinese tech giant. US President Donald Trump on Friday emphasised the importance of ensuring the security of 5G networks as global digital economy develop, as he spoke at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
In line with an executive order enforced by the US administration earlier in the year to ban use of telecom equipment manufactured by firms deemed posing an “unacceptable risk to the national security” China’s tech giant Huawei found itself “blacklisted”.
Washington barred Huawei’s equipment from the country and banned the transfer of technologies and software to it by US companies, while also pressuring European allies to deny the Chinese tech giant access to the construction of 5G networks, threatening to limit intelligence sharing efforts otherwise.
The US claims the Chinese company cooperates with the government, installing backdoors in its equipment for Beijing’s espionage and cyberattacks. Beijing and Huawei have condemned the US move, denying the allegations.