Huawei: ‘We stand naked in front of the world’

Huawei logoImage copyright AFP

Huawei has denied that it has any links to the Chinese government.

Huawei’s cyber-security chief John Suffolk told MPs on Monday that the tech giant had never been asked by China or any other government to “do anything untoward”.

Mr Suffolk said Huawei welcomed outsiders to analyse its products and detect engineering or coding flaws.

“We stand naked in front of the world, but we would prefer to do that, because it enables us to improve our products.”

He added: “We want people to find things, whether they find one or one thousand, we don’t care. We are not embarrassed by what people find.”

Huawei was invited to the Technology and Science Select Committee to answer questions from MPs on the security of its equipment, and its links to the Chinese government.

The US has encouraged allies to block Huawei – the world’s largest maker of telecoms equipment – from their 5G networks, saying the Chinese government could use its products for surveillance.

Image copyright Parliament TV
Image caption Huawei’s cyber-security chief John Suffolk said the tech giant has no access to mobile networks

“We’ve never had a request from the Chinese government to do anything untoward at all,” said Mr Suffolk.

“We have never been asked by the Chinese government or any other government, I might add, to do anything that would weaken the security of a product.”

MPs raised concerns about Chinese human rights abuses, such as reports that up to a million Muslims are in detention centres in Xinjiang province.

They asked whether Huawei was required to provide equipment to Xinjiang province, especially in light of the 2017 Chinese intelligence law, which requires individuals and associations to comply with Chinese intelligent agencies.

Mr Suffolk said: “We have had to go through a period of clarification with the Chinese government, that has come out and made it quite clear that that is not the requirement of any company.

“We’ve had that validated via our lawyers and revalidated by Clifford Chance…according to our legal advice, that does not require Huawei to undertake anything that weakens Huawei’s position in terms of security.”

Remote access

MPs asked whether Huawei would be able to remotely access the UK’s 5G mobile networks via its equipment.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Huawei said it would have no access to any data on a 5G mobile network

In reply, Mr Suffolk stressed that Huawei is a provider of telecommunications equipment to mobile network operators.

“We don’t run networks, and because we don’t run the network, we have no access to any of the data that is running across that network,” he said.

He also explained that Huawei is only one of about 200 vendors who would be providing various different bits of equipment that would eventually make up a 5G network in the UK.

However, if an operator were to have a problem with Huawei equipment, a support centre based in Romania would be able to remotely access the equipment to fix the problem.

MPs wanted to know whether it would be possible for a 5G network to be used to track an individual user.

In response, Mr Suffolk explained that mobile phone technology requires the mobile operator to constantly track a user’s phone, in order to be able to connect them to the mobile network.

By that logic, the operator is constantly tracking all of its customers, all the time.

He also told MPs that only about 30% of the the components in Huawei products are actually made by the company – the rest of the components are obtained from a global supply chain that Huawei closely monitors in order to prevent security breaches.

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