US official: UK report is 'stark assessment' of Huawei risks


WASHINGTON (AP) — A British government report issued Thursday detailing security risks posed by Chinese firm Huawei confirms U.S. government warnings of security risks associated with the telecom giant, according to a U.S. official.

The report from a cybersecurity watchdog identified “significant technical issues” in Huawei’s engineering and warned there is “only limited assurance” the risk can be managed.

The U.S. official said those findings support similar American assessments that concluded Huawei’s equipment cannot be “made safe from Chinese influence or disruption.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the media publicly.

Huawei denies that its equipment could be used to facilitate spying and Chinese authorities have accused Washington of exaggerating security concerns to limit competition with Western vendors.

Washington is campaigning in Europe and beyond for allies to ban the use of Huawei technology as they develop plans to build new high speed fifth generation, or 5G, mobile networks.

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The U.S. has experienced significant pushback from allies concerned about remaining competitive in the global race to develop 5G technology. Germany recently announced Huawei would be able to bid on 5G contracts there and the U.S. has issued warnings to Israel that Chinese investment could result in reduced intelligence sharing.

The United Kingdom has previously said it believes Huawei’s security risks could be managed. Thursday’s report authored by British cybersecurity inspectors also said Huawei’s plans to address security flaws “could in principle be successful.”

The U.S. argues Huawei could give the Chinese government backdoor access to snoop on internet users worldwide.

“Our intelligence community has made it abundantly clear Huawei and ZTE put the security of our communications at risk and it is concerning that allies like Germany are considering relying on their products,” said Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in statement Thursday. “It is my hope all of our allies in Europe and around the globe hear us loud and clear.”

The U.S. accused ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecom networks and smartphones based in southern China, of misleading American regulators after it settled charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and Iran. The company was blocked in 2018 from importing American components for seven years.

Despite the security flaws identified in the report Thursday, British authorities said they do not believe the defects were a result of “Chinese state interference” and the report did not find that Huawei was giving the Chinese government backdoor access as the U.S. is warning.

U.S. officials didn’t expect to find dedicated backdoors, instead assessing its more likely the Chinese government would use what appear to be flaws in Huawei’s code to gain access, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official added that type of access can be just as damaging.

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