Russia could start launching cyberattacks against British 5G networks “at the request of China”, dared the chairman of a parliamentary committee.
The surprising prediction came from the deputy for Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defense committee, while presiding over a hearing on 5G security and Huawei’s involvement.
“I predict that Russia and China over the next decade will get closer and closer,” Ellwood told his committee. “To put it in crudest terms, Russia will become more submissive to China.” He added: “If Russia understands the weaknesses, vulnerabilities or backdoors provided by China, Russia may continue to carry out these cyber attacks at the request of China.”
Andre Pienaar and Emily Taylor of cyber information firm Oxford Information Labs provided evidence to the committee. MEPs asked to what extent Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks poses a threat to British national security.
Taylor also broke through Huawei’s continuing denial that its business goals are tied to the goals of the Chinese state, saying, “Mexico has been offered a very generous loan on 1% interest, provided that 80% of it is spent with Huawei. So we see that technological development is an integral part of the Belt and Road strategy – a patient and sustained strategy that has been carried out over the decades. “
Pienaar linked Huawei’s commercial success to what he described as $ 75 billion in state aid from China, apparently citing a Wall Street newspaper survey from December of last year. Responding to a question from Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who was a “guest member” of the Foreign Affairs Committee panel, Pienaar said: “It is calculated that the Chinese government has funded Huawei’s growth with some 75 billion dollars over the past three years to enable it to achieve the type of market dominance it currently enjoys in telecommunications equipment. “
Kearns asked if it was important to shut down the Chinese communications giant at the heart of the UK’s 5G networks. In his response, Pienaar referred to the 2019 report from the Huawei Cybersecurity Assessment Center (HCSEC), which exposed Huawei’s software development practices.
Speculating on why Huawei “is so shoddy in their cybersecurity engineering”, he wondered aloud if Huawei “doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter to them”, adding may – being unfairly: “It could be linked to the price at which they sell their product.”
Taylor issued a note of caution regarding Pienaar’s description of Huawei as being deliberately misleading, noting: “I would not run away with the idea that these faults are deliberately placed there.”
Huawei launched a short-lived charm offensive after last year’s HCSEC report, highlighting how much it has spent on cybersecurity.
Overall, the committee, which is normally not known for its ability to uncover original ideas, felt that Huawei is not only a security risk – as the government has already concluded – but for Britain’s relationships with key allies, America and Australia. Although Taylor pointed out that it is much easier for Australia and the United States to insist on a policy without Huawei, since they have had de facto bans since the early 2010s, it did not seem attract a lot of attention.
While there are targets to limit Huawei’s involvement in UK 5G networks to 35% of access layer equipment, current Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has whispered that this target should be much lower. ®
At one point, Ellwood intervened to describe the topology of the 5G network as being composed of four parts, according to him: the transition networks (“the pipes, if you will”); the nucleus (“they call the brain, so encryption, payments, tariff, etc.”); the access network (“masts”); and the “management system, which is business support”. ®
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