US cyber chief warns China will use Huawei to ‘spy, steal and attack’ UK

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The electronic display on a Huawei mobile wifi device, in London.

A US cyber chief has warned China will use Huawei as a gateway to “spy, steal and attack” the UK.

The intervention is the latest in a series of US attacks on plans that could see Huawei allowed access to “non-core” parts of the new UK 5G network, which is still under review by the Government.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications Robert Strayer said China was a threat to Western freedoms and should be denied any foothold to UK telecommunications.

Huawei concerns
File photo dated 25/04/19 of the Huawei logo on one their mobile wifi devices. Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming has said it sends a “very bad message” if tech giant is not able to be part of the UK’s 5G infrastructure. (PA/Yui Mok)

In a speech in Westminster hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, Mr Strayer said the Chinese authorities saw technology “as a tool of repression, mass surveillance, and a means to take advantage of the openness of democracies”.

He warned allowing china wanted to import technology into UK networks as a “conduit” for espionage, as well as theft of private information,  intellectual property and “the export of authoritarian values”.

Mr Strayer said, although Huawei was not state-owned, the vendor was still subject to Chinese law, which does not give any “meaningful checks and balances” on the authorities’ power to compel cooperation.

He said: “For example, because of the essential role that vendors play in networks and their maintenance, they could be ordered to undermine network security—to steal personal information or intellectual property, conduct espionage, disrupt critical services, or conduct cyber attacks.”

Nor was only partial access to the UK 5G network good enough, said Mr Strayer, because the distinction between the “edge” and the “core”, which is clear in 4G networks, was much less clear in 5G networks.

He said: “Components anywhere in the network can interact in influential and dangerous ways where that capability used to be limited only to the core.

“For this reason, we strongly disagree with those who think they can mitigate risk by putting untrusted vendors only in the edge of 5G networks…this risk exists in both the core and edge of 5G networks.

“Given what is at stake and the uncertainty surrounding a rapidly evolving technology, we believe that using untrusted vendors anywhere in a 5G network introduces an unacceptable level of risk that cannot be mitigated.”

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