back to article MI5 gros fromage: Nah, US won't go Huawei from dear old Blighty over 5G, no matter what we do

The head of Britain's domestic spy agency, MI5, has declared that he has "no reason to think" that his country's impending decision to use Huawei in the core of 5G mobile networks will harm UK-US relations. The Financial Times interviewed the super-snoop, publishing his comments this morning. While Sir Andrew Parker is said to …


  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Bog Off USA

    We don't need you to tell us what's best for us - you don't even seem to have any idea what's best for yourselves.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Bog Off USA

      Exactly! Stuff 'em. I think UK security services are big enough and old enough to figure out for themselves what is good or bad for Britain, particularly when it looks increasingly like part of a politico/economic ploy against the Chinese on the part of the US.

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

      Re: Bog Off USA

      Not just USA. UK politicians should back off in meddling in matters whereof they are clueless.

      Leave the procurement decisions to the telcos who are building the actual networks.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Bog Off USA

        That might be a little strong. The interests of foreign owned/part owned telcos (the majority) are not necessarily those of the UK, eother in terms of profits or other interests, so the British state (via real experts though) do have an interest.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Leave the procurement decisions to the telcos who are building the actual networks."

        Sure, leave it to telcos, they are far more interested in Huawei discounts to increase their executives bonuses than about any security matters... do you really believe they are better than politicians when they have to take decisions?

        After all UK already once sent their most advanced jet engines designs to Stalin....

      3. streaky

        Re: Bog Off USA

        It's a legitimate decision for government to make. There's a reason GCHQ are neck-deep in this. They are a risk, it's true - but it's a manageable risk with Huawei's compliance, and that's what matters.

      4. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Bog Off USA

        "UK politicians should back off in meddling in matters whereof they are clueless."

        But then they won't have anything to do!

      5. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: Bog Off USA - No Eyes?

        If we all just use end-to-end encryption (without intentional backdoors) we won't have to worry about any of the intermediate equipment snooping on us. Of course the Five Eyes may not like that solution.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "to desperately brief against Huawei getting the green light"

    They wouldn't need to be desperate if they had anything approaching actual truth.

    Sod that argument already.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    If it walks and talks and quacks like a duck ..... it's a duck.

    I think all of that is what is quite commonly known as a Buggers' Muddle in Dire Straits Need of Advanced IntelAIgent Applications of Almighty Imagination for Exercising and Exploiting with Absolute Authority and Virtual Impunity.

    And that's certainly not a run-of-the-mill civilian or military program to contend with or more fully comprehend and engage with with the simple supply of mutually beneficial positively reinforcing support ........ which is quite an Immaculate Reward in Awe of the Powers and Energies such AIFusions Deliver. And that makes Everything Extremely Volatile and Highly Unstable to Boot and Root ...... so don't forget to remember to take extra special care if you dare to go there, for CHAOS and Confusion Confront Madness and Mayhem on the Plains of Insanity there, whilst Others busy themselves tendering and attending to the Enjoyment and Employment/SMARTR Deployment of All Manner of Mostly Heavenly Delights. ....... :-) which is One Absolutely Fabulous Fabless Perk, as I'm sure you can certainly imagine.

    Who and/or what supplies your Almighty Imagination Applications for Mass Media Servering and Universal Hosting? Any Secret Intelligence Service/Private Pirate Operation/Renegade Rogue Programs we might already know of?

    2020 ...... is definitely gonna be different from every year before. There be new toys and tools to play with and try master.

    1. Trollslayer Silver badge

      Re: If it walks and talks and quacks like a duck ..... it's a duck.

      I'll supply the Orange.

      1. Symon Silver badge

        Re: If it walks and talks and quacks like a duck ..... it's a duck.

        He's half the problem...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    makes more sence than usal and far more sence than trumphfart

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Hello there, I'd like to introduce you to this marvellous thing that computers can do called Spell Checking.

      As a dyslexic, half of this post would be spelt wrongly if I hadn't right clicked in the text box and selected 'Check Spelling'. When you see a little red wiggly line underneath a word (like 'sence'), that means the computer thinks you have spelt it wrongly, and if you right click it'll give you a few options for how it thinks you should have spelt the word.

      English is a pain-in-the-arse language when it comes to spelling, so let the computer help you out.

      1. Symon Silver badge

        Candidate for a Pullet Surprise

        I have a spelling checker,

        It came with my PC.

        It plane lee marks four my revue

        Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

        (English is such a pain in the arse that even a spelling checker isn't a pan a see ya! )

  5. thames

    We've been down this road before.

    The UK would look pretty silly if they banned Huawei equipment and then had to turn around and reverse themselves on that when the US decides that Huawei are no long a "threat to national security" because the US had finally signed a good enough trade deal with China (currently under negotiation).

    The US declared that Canadian steel and aluminum were "threats to US national security" as well, and slapped massive tariffs on them until Canada said we weren't going to sign a new NAFTA deal with the US until they were retracted. Then all of a sudden Canadian steel and aluminum were no longer threats to US national security after all and the tariffs vanished.

    The US has been making systematic use of "national security" as a trade negotiation tactic because they see it as a loop hole in WTO trade rules, despite their mis-use of it being so obviously transparent. They want to rope other countries in to supporting their blockade on Chinese 5G kit because the global market is so big that the US being the odd man out wouldn't really phase Huawei much.

    This is the way Trump rolls. We've been dealing with this sort of thing living next to the US on a regular basis for a few years now. He's openly admitted to simply making up "facts" on the spur of the moment when dealing with the Canadian government in order to derail the conversation when negotiations weren't going his way.

    Canada are also holding off on making any decision on this, partially in order to see what the UK will do. In Canada all cell phone network kit must be reviewed for security problems, not just that from Huawei or China. Canada's equivalent to GCHQ have found no serious problems with the stuff from Huawei when used in the manner which the telecoms carriers are proposing. Any problems with Huawei kit are purely diplomatic and politically related, not security or technical ones.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: We've been down this road before.

      Indeed, Trump and his regime lie so much and so often that even if they showed me a wolf in the act of attacking my sheep, I wouldn't believe them (because they probably forged the video, or it was somebody else's sheep). So the UK government must stand firm on this and pick the best/cheapest supplier.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: We've been down this road before.

        And their own trained wolf.....

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: We've been down this road before.

      TBH I’m more concerned about snooping and widespread surveillance from UK Spooks than the Chinese state.

      It’s far more likely that using Investigatory Powers over-reach your local council, Police, MI5, Benefits Agency will fuck you over.

      Look at the classification of XR as an extremist organisation for example. Thing Priti Patel has been watching way too much Salvation on Netflix. Greta Thunburg is not the current incarnation of Neo.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: We've been down this road before.

      More to the point in this case, whilst Huawei has been shown to have security LAPSES, the American competitors have been repeatedly shown to have actual BACKDOORS

      Given 2 centuries of rampant industrial espionage, along with outright theft of British and French nuclear research and jet engine technology after ww3 along with most of the western world's gold reserves(*), I think I'll take my chances with the Chinese.

      (*) If you think the Americans are only holding other countries' stocks for safekeeping, the sagas of attempts and failures to get it back should be educational. The UK is only getting half its own reserves back over a 100-year period as one example and that took a 30 year legal fight.

      1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: We've been down this road before.

        End-to-end encryption is the only effective defence against foreign snooping.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We've been down this road before.

          "End-to-end encryption is the only effective defence against foreign snooping."

          End-to-end encryption will protect you from casual snooping - determined attackers with sufficient resources and the ability to influence vendors code makes it unlikely to be an effective defence against US based snooping.

          If you are based in China, Russia, a number of middle eastern countries or other countries that engage is state level Internet monitoring, end-to-end encryption suffers similar issues - most notably it is unlikely to be end-to-end.

  6. arkhangelsk

    This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

    I think the real long term point of consideration is whether this is a national security issue, not what America might or might not do. I agree that "national security" has been stretched badly over the years, mostly because it has been left as an "out" in both human rights and trade related treaties. That should not eliminate the idea that there is such a thing as an honest-to-God national security threat. In fact, the whole stretching has backfired somewhat on the abusers, since in stretching the term so widely now even for national security matters we must have standards - standards that might just stop you from acting promptly against a genuine threat!

    National security is by nature preventive. If danger has become actual, you are no longer so much protecting national security as restoring, repairing or recreating it. The real measure is, Can you delay the decision to preempt and still take the decision later, and how much it will cost to repair the damage if you bet wrong.

    So you should think what happens IF there is a deliberate leak, or a bunch of "accidental" leaks that are creating a large loss of data. Does Britain really have the capability to guarantee timely detection, does Britain really have the gumption to flatly tell Huawei (and thus China) it is backing out, and can Britain really change its net to alternate suppliers at that point with sufficient speed and at a bearable cost.

    If not, then this is a genuine national security choice and should be played on the side of caution.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

      Its not a national security issue. There's a big difference between being an equipment supplier and a provider. I have absolutely no qualms about using Chinese equipment -- it has to be built and tested to verify it operates to appropriate levels of service and adheres to appropriate standards but these are well understood. I'd be very wary of using China Telecom as my provider, though (except that I don't have any national security or sensitive commercial information, I'm a retiree, so I'd not really a useful source of intelligence).

      The real issue here is that the US doesn't really have a dog in this equipment fight. We've got a couple of chip makers that enjoyed monopoly or near-monopoly positions with 4G but we outsourced the rest because all the money's in provision and in 'apps'. The problem we know face is that Huawei all but owns 5G, they have about 60% of the patents needed to use it, so we're faced with the choice of either tarting up 4G LTE a bit and calling it '5GE' (for 'evolution') or buying Huawei kit.

      The moral of this tale, as should be known by anyone from the UK, is that if you keep outsourcing your industry then eventually you won't have any. 'Service economies' can only go so far in generating wealth (typically they don't generate it, they just redistribute it).

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

      Given that the UK and Europe specialists have studied the Huawei source code and haven't found any national security problems (just normal botched security code) and the US, allegedly, hasn't studied the code; yet it is the US stating that there are problems with Huawei kit, whilst the rest of the World is saying, "we've analysed Huawei with a fine tooth comb and haven't found anything, what did we miss?" And the US replies, "trust us, national security theatre!"

      1. arkhangelsk

        Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

        You are taking a criminal law approach to a national security problem. Admittedly, that's because national security has been so stretched over the years that as I said, people demand standards now even for national security problems.

        To take what you said in a more negative light, they have actually found leaks but CHOSE to believe they are innocent ones and at least as important, the Chinese government don't already know about at least some of the leaks.

        You also have to be sure the source code is exactly the same as those that go into every machine, check all the patches they'll inevitably publish ... etc, etc. And even then it is a contest between your ability to find the holes and their ability to hide them.

        Once you have committed, what ARE you really going to do if you start finding the holes then? Do you think reversing would be cheap or even possible?

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

          And the US suppliers like Cisco and Juniper will be happy to hand over their source code?

          No, I thought not...….

          That may of course then reveal all the "bugs" in that code that are used by the US spooks. Personally, in the current climate I suspect there is a far greater risk of snooping by the US in their quest to protect themselves from "<insert current baddies>" alleged threat.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

            "And the US suppliers like Cisco and Juniper will be happy to hand over their source code?"

            Slight straw man argument in that you answered the question based on what you wanted the result to be rather than fact - I believe the US manufacturers mentioned have already handed over source code in the past for review and will do it on request for current source code.

            If you had mentioned US agencies working within these companies to introduce bugs (i.e. weakening encryption strengths etc) then you may have a point. Harder to get US agency staff into Huawei jobs...

        2. Trollslayer Silver badge

          If you read the article

          " they have actually found leaks but CHOSE to believe they are innocent ones and at least as important"


          Can you provide proof to back this up?

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: If you read the article

            Proof is difficult - evidence might be good though.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

      If you're transmitting information over a phone line, whether that's a landline, or mobile, then you have to assume that your communication might be compromised if you're not using suitable encryption.

      Us Brits have long known that the government has the means to eavesdrop on pretty much all of our communications, so we behave accordingly. Equally, I'm sure that the security services don't trust any communications equipment, even if it was built by the GPO.

      If we used Cisco instead of Huawei then chances are it would be the NSA listening in instead of the Chinese. So given that there's not much difference either way, we might as well buy from the company that sells better equipment for cheaper.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

        Exactly, do I have to pay through the nose to be spied on, or can I be spied upon and still take the family out for a meal?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

        Good reasons for not using Huawei:

        - Chinese are using economic domination to wipe out western telecommunications companies

        - it's not just telecommunications companies that the Chinese are using this tactic against

        - if Huawei becomes a key supplier in western infrastructure, what would the west do if they wished to apply sanctions for humanitarian violations in China/Hong Kong?

        Bad reasons for choosing Huawei over another vendor:

        - only Cisco can eavesdrop on your communications. Ignore all that stuff with FiveEyes stickers on it connected to undersea fibre cables. That just monitors light levels...for quality purposes... OK, I'm joking, there aren't any FiveEyes stickers on the equipment.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          The real national security problem is not thinking hard enough

          Crikey, AC, are you being ironic and paradoxical, for is not Uncle Sam the junkie slave to sanctions and punitive trade tariffs against a great many competitors, which is surely a sure sign of catastrophically failed/failing intellectual property portfolios providing global geopolitical disorder shenanigans?

          Such is a self defeating and highly self destructive modus operandi/vivendi ........ and surely impossible to not regard certainly as one of the maddest of choices to make and promote and claim one can profit from.

          Is there something toxic and mind-bending in the US/Washington DC water supply/atmosphere?

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

          You seem to be overestimating how much the rest of the world would rather be dominated by the US instead of China.

          It's not like the US hasn't been using economic dominance to do it's best to wipe out any competition (western, eastern, north or south), for, well, decades. The choice for small countries like the UK is who would we rather be dominated by, or is there a way to play one off against the other?

          As for humanitarian violations, do something about the kids in concentration camps, and then maybe we can talk about who gets to throw the first stone, eh?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is a Real national security problem. Think hard, Brits!

            "You seem to be overestimating how much the rest of the world would rather be dominated by the US instead of China."

            Look at the companies that will likely benefit from 5G on the infrastructure side - Ericsson/Lucent/Huawei/ZTE and Samsung in a distant 5th.

            Yes, US companies that provide supporting infrastructure such as Cisco and Juniper benefit, but its as much European and Asian OECD countries as the US. The question is whether the western world (more accurately, OECD countries) are happy with the current arrangements or would prefer China to be setting the agenda.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know what's going to happen ...

    ... Herr Trumpler will say "Bend Over!" and Borissolini will say "Ok. How far ?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You know what's going to happen ...

      Sure it won't have nothing to do with a shower of some sort?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There was a time when all critical infrastructure equipment was made in the UK, easy to vet key companies and their staff and somebody to throw in jail if it came to the worst. They also probably put in back doors for the UK spooks.They certainly did not trust the USA.

    Does anybody believe that any overseas suppliers are not vulnerable to their own governments wanting to spy

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There was a time...

      This time when all our infrastructure was UK made, and we didn't trust the USA, was this a time when Messrs. Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt were running our intelligence agencies, perhaps?

      Everything I've read suggests that the USA, or at least their intelligence agencies, didn't trust us for many years. They thought we were leaking information to the Soviets. They were right, too.

      Real life is rarely black-and-white, particularly when it comes to spying.

  9. Beau

    You know what's going to happen.

    This is no longer a matter of right or wrong. Brits are going to need that trade deal with the USA. Getting it will depend on Boris doing as he is told. The Big Man is not going to take any nonsense from little Britain. Brits had better get used to the idea.

    1. Trollslayer Silver badge

      Re: You know what's going to happen.

      You're funny.

      1. Extreme Aged Parent

        Re: You know what's going to happen.

        Sadly I think he is correct

  10. Spanners Silver badge

    Please define "national" security

    When Trump talks about the state of their national security, and ours, he has a different meaning.

    He is talking about the security of the profit line of corporaions belonging to his rich donors and friends. He has no more concern over the security of the USA than Boris has about the continued existence of the UK.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile, on the Other Side of the Looking Glass ......

    An earlier view expressed elsewhere with just a couple of subtle adjustments .......

    Honourable Member 14 Jan 2020 8:09AM [2001140809] ..... observes on

    The US now enjoys a monopoly on global intelligence. ...... William Shaw 14 Jan 2020 12:10AM

    @William Shaw

    I think the abiding and growing problem for the US and the West is they are not now enjoying a monopoly on global intelligence.

    Indeed, it may very well be the case that nowadays are they working with sub-prime information which has to be used and abused to prop up deluded administrations and rapidly failing systems.

  12. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Get rid of Trump and all his freinds

    Then we MIGHT talk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get rid of Trump and all his freinds

      "Get rid of Trump and all his friends"

      Well Trumps done a pretty good job at removing his friends so I think there's only Trump left...

  13. 0laf Silver badge

    Sensible heads

    Talk between proper intelligence people in the 5 eyes tends to go on beneath the surface whatever the political weather or news headlines.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Sensible heads

      Whenever such talks are limited and divisive rather than constructive and creative, are they just as idle gossip and dangerous tittle tattle, 0laf?

      And do proper intelligence people in the 5 eyes not automatically inform politicians of leading news for media to headline?

      Are we to believe that they already do? That would sort of make a mockery of their being thought of as proper intelligence people, methinks, and it would do them no favours, especially for those at the top of such services responsible and accountable for performance, or non-performance as the case would then be .... for take a good look around you at what they are presenting.

  14. Jedburglives


    The UK must always protect its own sovereignty; albeit we are rather good at selling off our assets to other sovereign states. I'm not defending that as we live in a global world but we have to apply some reasonable thinking here. Ask yourselves one question "would China protect /enforce its own sovereignty over another sovereign state"? In times of political unrest what would you do to play / keep the upper hand if you had some control over another sovereign states 5G (or whatever) infrastructure (and that's the key point here, what does control look like, where we are currently scrutinizing these devices today, over tomorrow when we will be more relaxed and accept / trust that one patch / fix).

    You can think / say what you feel (above) but sovereignty rules!


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