LONDON – A British review by Huawei found "significant" security issues with the Chinese company's telecommunications equipment, a conclusion that supports US efforts to banish them from next-generation wireless networks.
The British report released Thursday found that Huawei's software development and security processes had "fundamental flaws" that governments or independent hackers could exploit, threatening national security. Although the report did not call for an absolute ban on Huawei devices, it was endorsed by the nation's leading cybersecurity agency.
But the American push is encountering hurdles. Many countries, including Britain, have resisted attempting to ban Huawei and argue that the risk can be mitigated. For mobile operators, this is a crucial time as they prepare to provide billions of dollars for the introduction of next-generation (5G) wireless networks, which governments see as essential infrastructure for a rapidly digitizing global economy.
The British report points to further challenges facing many countries. Although Huawei's products may pose a threat to cybersecurity, the company is a major provider of devices needed to build 5G networks. A country's absolute ban could lead to costly delays in the introduction of the technology, which will not only increase the download speed of mobile phones, but is likely to cause breakthroughs in manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare. And Huawei is already a key component of the telecommunications networks of many countries, making a logistical ban difficult.
Governments seek to continue using Huawei's equipment while limiting their risks. Germany, India and the United Arab Emirates have signaled, among other things, that it is unlikely that the Americans will lead the ban on Huawei 5G devices.
In a statement, Huawei said that the British report "discusses some concerns about Huawei's software engineering capabilities. We understand these concerns and take them very seriously. "
This week, the European Union made recommendations to secure 5G networks that did not require a Huawei ban. It is expected that the British government will adopt new telecommunications regulations this year.
A major concern of the United States and others seeking a ban is Huawei's links with the Chinese government, which keeps the national economy under strict control. A law passed by China in 2017 has been interpreted as requiring companies to assist Beijing on national security issues.
The British authorities are trying to differentiate Huawei's security flaws from Beijing's broader efforts to infiltrate its networks. The Thursday report described a company that had inadequate design practices and problems due to these design flaws, and was more than a company operating under orders from the Chinese authorities.
In the report, British officials found that Huawei could not replicate the software, meaning that the authorities could not be sure which code was being implemented in the country's wireless networks. She added that Huawei had a poor understanding of suppliers that provided components for its products.
"There is no consistent integrity," the report said.
Since 2010, Britain has a now-led oversight body of the National Cyber Security Center, tasked to oversee the operations of Huawei. The company's products and code are inspected in a security lab about 70 miles outside of London. In November, after British officials asked Huawei, the company promised $ 2 billion over the next five years to improve its software and security processes.
The approach is seen as a potential model for other countries that want to add more protections via Huawei. Germany has opened a security laboratory in Bonn, where devices and code can be checked by Huawei. The company has opened a facility in Brussels to alleviate the concerns of European Union officials.
British officials are confident that the Huawei's risk can be overcome. Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Center, said this year that no absolute ban was needed as the country was severely overslept and kept Huawei's equipment outside of the country's most sensitive areas of the network.
Nevertheless, Thursday's report remained sharply critical of Huawei. "No significant progress has been made," concluded the report.