UK Ignores US, Won't Fully Ban Huawei Gear From Its Networks

from the watching-you-watching-me dept

We’ve repeatedly noted that while Huawei certainly engages in some clearly sketchy shit (like any good unaccountable telecom giant), the evidence supporting the global blacklist of the company has been lacking. The Trump administration still hasn’t provided any public evidence supporting the central justification for the global blackballing effort (that Huawei works for China to spy wholesale on Americans), and at least some of the effort is little more than gamesmanship by companies like Cisco, which don’t want to compete with cheaper Chinese gear as they hunt down network and 5G contracts.

Not everybody has been responsive to the US blackballing campaign. Germany has generally taken the stance that it’s easier to just ban gear with clear security problems instead of stumbling down the messy blackballing rabbit hole, which requires immensely complicated enforcement action and ripping gear out of existing networks. And the UK this week announced that it would be bucking US demands and only ban Huawei gear from the most sensitive network areas. There are also a few other restrictions that fall well short of a full ban:

“There is also a limit in place on how much equipment networks can buy from one ?high risk vendor? for a particular part of the infrastructure known as the Radio Access Network (RAN). This is essentially the part of the network that hooks up your devices with the actual 5G signal. So Huawei can participate in the RAN, but no more than 35% of a single vendor?s equipment in this part of the network can come from Huawei.”

The US obsession with Huawei as a security threat certainly isn’t baseless, but at the same time the Trump administration has rattled the saber on Huawei, it has done virtually nothing for other major aspects of cybersecurity, be it the abysmal lack of security in the internet of things (much of which originates in… gasp… China), or the terrifying lack of adequate election security to protect us from Chinese hackers. Either you’re concerned about cybersecurity or you aren’t, and our asymmetrical policies on this subject are usually fairly telling.

Again, companies like Cisco have spent years successfully scaring lawmakers into cracking down on Chinese network gearmakers whose cheaper (and admittedly often shitty) gear they simply don’t want to compete with. Yet it’s pretty rare to see that ever reflected in print. This week the Telegraph was one of a tiny number of outlets which quoted experts suggesting the Huawei threat might just be over-hyped:

“Dr Greg Austin, a cybersecurity expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that “the US case against Huawei always had more to do with exaggeration of the espionage gains to China from it than with any sober assessment…Other experts said there has still been no public evidence of Huawei using its technology for espionage and hoped that the Government decision will avoid any impact on the economy from network operators having to rip out large amounts of Huawei technology.

Though even here, you should note nobody wants to say why the threat is being over-hyped, or why, after a decade (and even one 18 month investigation) nobody has been able to prove Huawei spies on Americans. In general, skepticism on this subject has all been drowned out by a chorus that seems oblivious to the idea that this blackballing effort may not entirely be grounded in factual reality. None of this is to say Huawei (or China) are saints, just to say that patriotism tends to make a certain segment blind to the lobbying gamesmanship that’s underpinning many of these “very sober national security determinations.”

There’s also the hypocrisy. The NSA literally broke into Huawei to implant backdoors in the company’s gear, and routinely engages in the kind of behavior we lambaste China for. It’s now impossible to determine where AT&T physically ends and the NSA begins, yet if foreign countries were to suddenly ban AT&T from doing business overseas, the immense hyperventilation and face-fanning from all of the exact same folks who support a blackballing of Huawei would register on the Richter scale. There’s rarely room for nuance in the conversations about Huawei, which gives US lobbyists ample legroom to play.

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Comments on “UK Ignores US, Won't Fully Ban Huawei Gear From Its Networks”

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10 Comments
genghis_uk (profile) says:

Pots and Kettles

America, who have been actually caught spying on its allies and whose NSA has actually been caught modifying Cisco (and Huawei?) kit to add backdoors, is complaining that China may spy on the West – Interesting double standards there.

Add to that the fact that most important communication and all secret communication is encrypted (you know that tech that is dangerous and needs to be compromised for national security) and you get a storm in a teacup.

The one thing the Chinese could potentially do is remotely turn kit off but I would hope that the system designers are more clever than to leave that option open.

How many politicians (on either side of the Atlantic) understand the technology that they all appear to have an opinion about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

These presidents are signing legislation that never gets undone. They are all part of the same show. A house divided against itself will not stand. Do you think that they are not in cahoots on each side of the aisle? Obama’s first week as president, he signed over 89,000 pages of new laws onto the books. Its a clusterfuck what they’re doing to our nation.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Nobody should be building more than 35 percent of any part of a network from any vendor’s stuff. They are all too high risk for that. Cisco, Huawei, anybody.

That’s the first hint I’ve heard of a sane approach from anybody; it just doesn’t go far enough.

… nor should any piece of equipment be treated as though it were incorruptible.

On the other hand, banning "gear with clear security problems" is dumb, because you will never know with any confidence which gear that is.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trade Talks

LOL! The UK is already being pressured by the US on multiple fronts. I remember not too long ago that being forced to accept chlorinated chicken with no labelling to indicate what sort of crap was in it was one of the arguments against Brexit. Every Brexiter then hopped in to tell us that if Americans were happy with it, what’s the problem?

Also, it’s easier to tack on to an existing trade deal than to negotiate a completely separate one. Seeing Boris’s track record, what he’ll actually do is "negotiate" a worse FTA than that. His existing Brexit deal is worse than May’s; he only got it through by holding a Night of the Long Knives event where he purged dissenters from the party and rammed the Lords with compliant picks.

Dave says:

Control freak?

Perhaps it would be better if the great (NOT) brainless orange apparition just dealt with what’s happening in the USA and kept his big interfering nose out of other countries business. Don’t suppose the world would end if the so-called "special relationship" with the UK wasn’t quite so "special" any more. At least we might not have two charmless buffoons on the same wavelength.

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