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December 18, 2013

GCHQ to increase scrutiny on Huawei security centre

Government fears telecom firm's security hub could be used to spy on Britain.

By CBR Staff Writer

British intelligence agency GCHQ is to get a greater role in hiring key staff at Huawei’s cyber security hub, amid government fears that the company’s equipment could be used for spying.

The Chinese firm’s Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in Oxfordshire will have all senior appointments directed and overseen by GCHQ, after a review by national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch.

In addition, a senior member of GCHQ will be appointed to supervise operations at the centre – nicknamed ‘the Cell’ – to safeguard security of the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) earlier published a report in July warning that there is no adequate oversight of the centre.

Following the report Prime Minister David Cameron said that oversight of the CellC should be enhanced, and that GCHQ should take a leading and directing role all future senior appointments.

Several governments have kept a close eye on the telecoms giant’s networking products over the past 18 months, mainly due to its alleged ties with the Chinese government.

In addition, Sir Kim said that the Cell’s employees will continue to be engaged by Huawei, regardless of the apparent conflict of interest, which would be the best way to access Huawei’s products, codes and engineers.

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The review also established that the Cell had been effectively operating and that the existing arrangements had offered it enough freedom.

In July 2013, the UK government confirmed plans to investigate the operations of Chinese telecom firm over rising security concerns.

"It noted that, after some initial teething problems, Huawei’s cooperation with HCSEC appeared exemplary, with equipment and software supplied without delay and full access provided to Huawei design teams," Sir Kim said.

"It also noted that those vulnerabilities identified since HCSEC’s establishment could be explained as genuine design weaknesses or errors in coding practice."

However, the findings from the review have been accepted by the company, which also supported the proposals to optimise the management of the HCSEC.

Huawei said in a statement: "We are pleased that the model of the UK government, the telecom operators and Huawei working together in an open and transparent way has been recognised as the best approach for providing reassurance on the security of products and solutions deployed in the UK."

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