US cyber chief asks the UK to rethink Huawei decision

Robert Strayer, the US deputy assistant secretary for cyber and communication, recently criticized the UK’s decision of permitting Huawei to participate in the roll-out of 5G networks.

Strayer said that intelligence sharing between the United States and the UK will be jeopardised if Huawei is allowed in the market. "If countries adopt untrustworthy vendors in 5G technology, it will jeopardise our ability to share information at the highest levels," he said.

In his week-long trip to Europe, he has mentioned that Huawei has ‘close ties’ with the Chinese Communist Party, and that its participation could erode the effectiveness of critical infrastructure of 5G networks.

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After the meeting with the White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in Downing street, the UK government has confirmed that its position on Huawei's participation hasn’t changed since January this year. Huawei has revealed that it has 47 commercial 5G customers across Europe despite the pressure exerted by the United States to ban its presence in the continent.

Hinting that the UK might choose non-Chinese 5G operators, Strayer said it would be incorrect if Huawei makes people believe that they are the only alternative. "Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung provide an equivalent quality in their product and don't put individuals' information and business information at risk."

NCSC and MI6 previously highlighted security concerns around Huawei's equipment

In the past, NCSC shared a list of core 5G functions where operators will not be permitted to deploy Huawei's equipment or services. These include 5G Core database functions, 5G core-related services including but not limited to Authentication Server Function (AUSF), Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF), Unstructured Data Storage Function (UDSF), Network Exposure Function (NEF), Intermediate NEF (I-NEF), Network Repository Function (NRF), Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF), Policy Control Function (PCF), and Session Management Function (SMF) among others.

In the past, Alex Younger, the chief of MI6, warned about the national security risks that the use of Chinese equipment in the UK's future 5G networks could entail. NCSC technical director Ian Levy also showed his lack of faith in the past, terming Huawei's engineering processes as "very, very shoddy" and said that Huawei had done very little to reassure the government that its promised transformation programme will bear fruit in the coming years.

In response to these criticisms, Paul Scanlan, chief technology officer of Huawei's carrier business group, told BBC that Huawei infrastructure was leading both in terms of sales and technical standards and that its at least a couple of years ahead of the others.

Huawei has pledged to spend at least £1.5 billion to address such concerns and to ensure its continued participation in the UK's 5G network trials. The company has also said it is "willing to sign non-spy agreements with governments" to allay concerns that the company's telecommunications infrastructure could be used by the Chinese government to spy on citizens of other countries.

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