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What the UK govt's decision to let Huawei in means to security

What the UK govt's decision to let Huawei in means to security
To be clear, the U.K does not really think that Huawei is completely safe for them.
At the heart of the recent trade war between China and the U.S. is the concern that the Chinese network and security companies are stealing sensitive information that is being made available to the Chinese government. The U.S. had banned many large Chinese firms from operating on public projects, along with imposing bans on several American companies on working with Chinese manufacturers.

This had prompted governments across the globe to rethink their policy towards Chinese manufacturers and sparked fears that many countries may ban them. However, a recent decision from the U.K. appears to be going against the trend. They have allowed Huawei to have a "limited role" in building its new 5G data network, prompting an obvious “disappointment” from the U.S.

To be clear, the U.K does not really think that Huawei is completely safe for them. The government’s National Cyber Security Centre has said that it still considers Huawei a high-risk vendor but has asked local companies to work together to collectively minimize the risk while allowing the restricted role to Huawei.

What this means to the security industry

5G is going to play a major role in physical security in the coming days. High-speed wireless will enable more automation, cloud-based solutions, and implementation of more advanced algorithms that could improve security and safety.  

But cybersecurity of physical security solutions is as big a fear as physical security itself at the moment. Speaking to recently on the potential implications of the UK government’s decision, James Aguilan, Cybersecurity Technical Consultant at QA Consulting, said that whenever you allow a sovereign state to work on critical national infrastructure, there is always a risk of state-sponsored threats. But this doesn’t mean that any issues have been proven yet.

“At the end of the day, Cybersecurity is all about risk management and about working our best to detect, protect and respond to threats,” Aguilan said. “While [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has openly given the Chinese the power to work on 5G integration, The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has monitored Huawei kit and has never found a security problem (yet).”

Aguilan is quick to point out that this decision is unlikely to affect how other countries view Huawei, adding that it depends on some level of assurance and the countries' view on risk management.

Why this decision

The real reason for allowing Huawei is not the lack of concern, but of political repercussions at a sensitive time. The U.K. has just left Europe (finally!) and there are some who fear that the post-Brexit London will need all the goodwill it can get and a complete ban on Huawei will hurt ties with China.

Then there is, of course, the fact that Huawei has been in the UK for over two decades already and no major issues have come up so far. Some media reports suggest that British operators have been lobbying hard for Huawei not to be excluded, as they already use the Chinese company’s components.

“It’s politics. It’s all about money, then trust. Huawei has been in the UK telecommunications network for approaching 20 years, so there is already built trust,” Aguilan said.

In the end, concerns on Huawei’s as a risk will likely continue to impact decisions in countries like the U.S. and Europe. However, there aren’t many large companies that do the kind of work that Huawei does. This, along with political reasons could drive policy in the future.

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