back to article BT links with Huawei raise national security concerns, say MPs

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has dismissed claims that its technology, which is used by BT, is a threat to the UK's national security. The company was forced to defend itself today, after a parliamentary security and intelligence committee report attacked the civil service for failing to inform ministers of BT and Huawei's …


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  1. Vimes

    Since then, BT has continued to conduct a thorough annual evaluation of Huawei and after eight years of partnership, we have built a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with them.

    This would be the same BT that foresaw a 'mutually beneficial relationship' between themselves and Phorm before it blew up in their faces?

  2. smudge

    Committee says "We're always the last to know!"

    The company was forced to defend itself today, after a parliamentary security and intelligence committee report attacked the civil service for failing to inform ministers of BT and Huawei's close relationship, which first started in 2005.

    So where have the parliamentary security and intelligence committee been for the last 8 years? The relationship has hardly been secret.

    Ah, I know, they've been researching the links between this confounded Interweb thing and nutters with machetes.

    1. Syntax Error

      Re: Committee says "We're always the last to know!"

      Since OFCOM was invented parliament has taken no interest in the internet, BT as its all too complicated for them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Committee says "We're always the last to know!"

      Wrong question.

      Right questions are (and just for starters):

      1. Where has GCHQ was for the last 8 years?

      2. Why did we laugh at India when their security center to test their equipment for possible infiltration by a foreign adversary was contracted to be run by Huawei. They were simply following the venerable tradition of copying UK.

      There are also a few other "right" questions BT has to answer, but they are better asked under MP legal privilege and not on the register. I think it is time for a letter to my MP :)

      1. smudge

        Re: Committee says "We're always the last to know!"

        "Wrong question."

        I disagree.

        This has been public knowledge for years. I've known about it for years. GCHQ will have known about it for longer. Just Google for "Huawei", "BT" and "21CN".

        Your questions may have been the right ones some time ago, but the deal is history now.

        So I stand by my original question. If they are a (the?) parliamentary security and intelligence committee, why have they only discovered this now?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are merely copying the Americans

    Monkey see, monkey do.

    1. a_milan

      Re: They are merely copying the Americans

      Completely correct.

      And if the Parliament (and their worldwide counterparts) are so concerned about security of their citizen's data, why not look into eg. Microsoft, a known security hole generator and proven snooper of supposedly private communications?

      After all, they still fully control over 90% of places where data is being generated, viewed or analyzed, Huawei is nowhere near that kind of dominance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They are merely copying the Americans

        More likely they have been lobbied to do so by competing American business interests and told what to do by the American political leaders to ensure only kit with thier backdoors are installed so they can continue to spy on British companies to steal trade secrets for American interests...

  4. Mr Anonymous

    If BT have have to ditch the kit, I'll give them a tenner for it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You actually mean there is intelligence in parliament and they have a committee all about it? I always thought that intelligence and anything to do with parliamentarians was an oxymoron.

    1. MrXavia

      I am sure there MUST be one intelligent MP, somewhere???

      Maybe an independent MP???

      Ok maybe your right....

  6. Yes Me Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good for them

    Never thought I'd say it - good for the govt! The paranoid xenophobic nonsense about Huawei deserves to be ignored.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Good for them

      I wouldn't put it quite so strongly as 'nonsense', but I've carried out security risk assessments for clients with Huawei kit, and my conclusions were that there are real threats, such as:

      (a) a magic 'off' button - Huawei could configure their systems to shut down on receipt of a specially formed packet (a 21st century 'ping of death') to facilitate DoS attacks;

      (b) back doors that could allow an attacker to gain sysadmin access (which also exist, by accident if not design, in many other systems);

      (c) analysis of traffic and reporting back to some central point (I think this sort of capability is rather beyond the fairly basic low-level kit that constitutes most of their current installed base, but that will no doubt change in the future as Huawei move up the food chain).

      But none of these seem to be very plausible because:

      (1) most Huawei kit is installed in China, so they would be just as vulnerable to these attacks;

      (2) most such kit is not directly exposed to the Internet. There are firewalls and IDS/IPS systems in the way (hopefully not all Huawei ones!) that would make inbound and outbound access very difficult, if not impossible.

      I don't claim to have conducted any exhaustive analysis of the hardware, and I'd welcome comments or corrections. But it doesn't seem to me that any threat is currently very great.

  7. ElNumbre
    Black Helicopters

    As If...

    As if GCHQ haven't already poked this stuff with a big digital stick. Its just that the holes they found are useful and they're not about to share them with either friend or foe, lest they get closed.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Govt operating at the speed of light

    ... A bit late now, they have logging equipment in practically every BT exchange across the UK.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost Vs Benefits

    BT saved huge sums buying Huawei equipment for 21CN. The government picks up the benefits bill after Marconi is trashed and thousands made unemployed since 2003.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cost Vs Benefits

      Marconi was a dead duck crippled by years of not having a clue what it wanted to do and its kit was at best "substandard" propping it up would be a fools errand. I expect most of the engineers that worked at Marconi found themselves new jobs within a year, at marginally better companies.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cost Vs Benefits

      From what I've heard Marconi et al were happy as larry to price gouge BT at every opportunity for kit.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US needs some allies to prop up its protectionism/xenophobia and much as when it comes to illegal wars there's always "friends" in the UK government to help give them some legitimacy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and BTOpenZone (now BTWifi)..?

    on the back of every BT broadband install with 'wifi' enabled hubs....

  12. JaitcH

    So what does GCHQ know?

    The ONLY reason the MPs are questioning anything Chinese is for trade reasons, absolutely nnothing to do with security.

    Obummer has been around the world saying the Chinese have back doors in their network equipment whereas the Chinese-made American equipment is secure ... except for American back doors.

    Given the recent revelations in the Guardian (hat tip to Greenwald) who would trust the lying b*stards that are today's American officials?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what does GCHQ know?

      "Given the recent revelations in the Guardian (hat tip to Greenwald) who would trust the lying b*stards that are today's American officials?"

      I would suggest the "today's" is superfluous.

      And also that your statement could apply to any country, not just the US.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    read between the lines

    Reading between the lines, the comittee is most upset that the cell is staffed by Huawei staff but completely free of chinese influence and not direct gchq employees.

    There's probably a great reason for this, namely gchq would not be able to pay the rates that you need to pay to get people in to this level of expertise. And that's probably why gchq is happy with it.

    Sorry to be pragmatic instead of traditional chinese bashing, but meanwhile in the real world.

  14. plrndl

    Wakey Wakey!

    This is simply racism in the guise of national security. Regardless of the brand name, ALL techical equipment, computers, phones, virtually all the components and everthing else has been made in China for the last 10 years or more.

  15. Kevin Pollock

    I think the authorities are missing the point...

    ...maybe the Huawei gear is insecure. I'm not really in a position to judge that.

    What I know for 100% certain is that Huawei and ZTE have been selling gear at massive discounts to UK and mainland European, African, Indian, and South American service providers for years. They used loans from the Bank of China to allow them to do this.

    This kind of dumping was the last nail in Marconi's coffin. I agree with AC: Posted Friday 7th June 2013 07:16 GMT that they were already dying on their feet because of incompetence, but the 21CN thing really did kill them off.

    You could make similar arguments about Nortel (bankrupt, and now dragging Ciena down with the debt mountain), NSN (bankrupt and now owned by bean counters), Lucent (on the verge of bankruptcy and now dragging Alcatel down with their debt mountain).

    One by one, companies are being driven out of business by subsidized pricing by Huawei and ZTE. When the customers no longer have a choice, that's when the prices will be jacked up.

    One thing the Chinese (and Japanese) are good at doing is "playing the long game".

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