‘New significant technical issues’ found in Huawei technology

(Steve Parsons/PA)

A Chinese telecoms giant working to launch Britain's first 5G mobile network presents "significant technical issues" and "new risks" to the UK, cyber security chiefs say.

A new report from GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) says the Beijing-based company has made "no material progress" to address issues it was first confronted with a year ago.

The new report casts a shadow over the company's future involvement in the development of 5G infrastructure in the UK amid concerns over the ability to prevent China from using the network for cyber attacks.

Concerns have been raised over the company's links to the Chinese state. Credit: PA
  • Why is the UK Government concerned about Huawei?

Huawei's devices are already in many homes across the UK, but the British Government is concerned a more wide scale roll-out of its technology could provide Beijing a tempting opportunity to gather sensitive information on British interests and launch cyber attacks with ease.

The new report highlights elements of the company's engineering infrastructure which are areas of concern if it wishes to operate 5G technology in the UK.

It says the company has made “no material progress” to address software engineering issues raised last year, and casts further doubt over its ability to deal with them.

This presents an issue for UK authorities needing to "appropriately risk-manage future products in the context of UK deployments".

Despite the concerns, the NCSC says there is no evidence the issues present a backdoor for China's Government to access the networks and the issues are simply software engineering irregularities which do not conform to Western standards.

Last year Huawei admitted it would "actively improve" after its technical practices were criticised for falling "short of industry good practice".

The Defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has previously said he has "grave concerns" about opening the door to the Chinese tech giant in the UK.

Ren Zhengfei, president of Huawei Technologies, shows China's President Xi Jinping around the company's offices in London. Credit: PA
  • Who are Huawei and why does its background raise issues?

Huawei is already a household name in the UK, seen by many as paving the way for the development of new technology.

In February it announced the world's first folding touchscreen phone.

Its devices are already used by millions around the world.

But it is the company's status as China's biggest private business which raises concerns.

Although Huawei denies links to the Chinese Government, the way the state operates raises red flags for British authorities.

China has been known to engage in cyber attacks in the past.

Allowing it to build a 5G network in the UK greater extends the possibility of future attacks happening.

There are also concerns China may manipulate Huawei into allowing it to spy on British interests through the network.

Read more: Williamson has ‘grave’ concerns over Chinese telecom giant Huawei

Huawei's devices are already in use by millions around the world. Credit: PA

Last year BT confirmed it was removing Huawei technology from key areas of its 4G network amid concerns of Chinese state meddling.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson previously said: “We’ve got to recognise the fact, as has been recently exposed, that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way.”

Huawei's business affairs have already pulled attention after its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was detained by Canadian authorities whilst changing planes in Vancouver.

She is accused of manipulating financial data to raise capital and breaking international trade sanctions by trading with Iran.

Both she and the company deny the charges.

  • What has Huawei said about the report?

Huawei says it understands the problems raised and will "take them very seriously".

"A high-level plan for the programme has been developed and we will continue to work with UK operators and the NCSC during its implementation to meet the requirements created as cloud, digitisation, and software-defined everything become more prevalent," a spokesperson said.

The company has repeated denied it would not be compelled to assist the Chinese Government in intelligence work.