Let­ting Huawei build our 5G net­work is like hand­ing your front door key to a stranger

That’s the chill­ing warn­ing of se­cu­rity ex­pert ED­WARD LU­CAS

Scottish Daily Mail - - News -

WOULD you hand over a room in your house to strangers, giv­ing them door keys, with no guar­an­tee of their mo­tives or be­hav­iour?

Of course you wouldn’t! You might even call it ‘mad­ness’.

Cer­tainly, ‘mad­ness’ is the blunt ver­dict of the United States, our clos­est ally, as Bri­tain con­sid­ers whether to en­trust its most im­por­tant elec­tronic in­fra­struc­ture — the new 5G phone net­work — to Huawei, a Chi­nese firm with close ties to that coun­try’s Com­mu­nist Party.

Se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials have pro­vided the Govern­ment with a dossier of new al­le­ga­tions against Huawei, while a team of Amer­i­can ex­perts ar­rived this week in a last-ditch ef­fort to per­suade the Prime Min­is­ter to block Huawei’s in­volve­ment here.

Amer­ica, along with Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Ja­pan, and Tai­wan, have banned use of the com­pany’s prod­ucts with their mo­bile net­works be­cause of fears it could com­pro­mise na­tional se­cu­rity.

Boris John­son, how­ever, has pooh-poohed the warn­ings, and dis­misses fears that the UK’s vital in­tel­li­gence-sharing re­la­tion­ship with Amer­ica could be cut off if, later this month, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­cides to pro­ceed with Huawei’s in­volve­ment.

Cheap

Any­one op­pos­ing Huawei, he says, must ex­plain what al­ter­na­tive they sug­gest.

The PM has strong back­ing in White­hall. The head of MI5 no less, Sir An­drew Parker, has said he sees no rea­son why us­ing Huawei tech­nol­ogy should dam­age Bri­tain’s ties with Amer­ica.

The ar­gu­ments for adopt­ing Huawei’s tech­nol­ogy are tempt­ing. The next big leap in tech­nol­ogy is the ‘In­ter­net of Things’.

It merges the ubiq­uity of mo­bile phone sig­nals with the data flows of the in­ter­net, of­fer­ing a revo­lu­tion in cost, con­ve­nience and adapt­abil­ity.

Imag­ine house­hold de­vices that warn you if they need ser­vic­ing or are about to wear out be­fore they stop work­ing. Pedes­trian cross­ings that al­ter their tim­ing ac­cord­ing to the num­ber of peo­ple wait­ing.

Cars that park them­selves, book ser­vices, and com­mu­ni­cate with other ve­hi­cles to avoid col­li­sions.

This will all be made pos­si­ble be­cause of 5G — the fifth gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile-phone tech­nol­ogy.

For readers with a tech­ni­cal bent, the first gen­er­a­tion was the most ba­sic mo­bile phones. Each one since has had greater abil­ity to send, re­ceive and process data, much of it valu­able.

Other Euro­pean coun­tries seem bent on al­low­ing Huawei to sell them the 5G prod­ucts that could help shape our econ­omy and daily life for a gen­er­a­tion. So why shouldn’t we fol­low suit?

There is no doubt coun­tries that move most quickly to the In­ter­net of Things and roll out 5G de­vices and sys­tems will have an ad­van­tage.

Their busi­nesses will sus­tain lower costs. Innovative tech­nolo­gies will flour­ish. In­vest­ment, jobs and wages will rise.

And as the lead­ing provider of 5G equip­ment and ser­vices, Huawei — the world’s largest provider of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment — stands to profit on an enor­mous scale while ex­ert­ing its in­flu­ence into ev­ery as­pect of our lives.

Since Huawei ex­ploded on to the world stage over the past decade, it has run rings round Western com­peti­tors.

Its prod­ucts are cheap, upto-date and ef­fec­tive. Many readers will have come across its phones, such as the P30. But the com­pany also pro­duces the less vis­i­ble sys­tems, soft­ware and hard­ware that make mo­bile net­works func­tion.

There is a catch, how­ever. On the sur­face Huawei is just an­other com­pany and stren­u­ously de­nies it is un­der the in­flu­ence or con­trol of the Chi­nese state.

Yet an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the com­pany’s struc­ture and val­ues by The New York Times con­cluded ‘its soul is steeped in Com­mu­nist Party cul­ture’.

Se­cret

‘We’ll strive for the re­al­i­sa­tion of Com­mu­nism un­til the end of our lives,’ said its founder Ren Zhengfei, a for­mer mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer. He founded the com­pany 32 years ago with a few thou­sand pounds of bor­rowed money.

Last year its sales reached £100 bil­lion — nearly a fifth up on 2018. Crit­ics won­der if its suc­cess is due solely to the brains and hard work of its staff, or if it has also en­joyed help from Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

For years, Bri­tain has dodged the ques­tion of whether to al­low Huawei into our telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture.

In Ban­bury, Ox­ford­shire, an out­sta­tion of GCHQ, the Govern­ment’s in­tel­li­gence and com­mu­ni­ca­tions head­quar­ters, is ex­am­in­ing the com­pany’s prod­ucts in or­der to see if they con­tain se­cret ca­pa­bil­i­ties that could be used for sab­o­tage or es­pi­onage. The boffins from our elec­tronic spy agency have found noth­ing ma­lign. That pre­sum­ably is the ba­sis for the MI5 di­rec­tor’s loyal sup­port for the cur­rent Govern­ment line which it­self stems from a view to prof­itable trade deals with China in a post-Brexit world.

But Bri­tish ex­perts have re­peat­edly com­plained about slop­pi­ness in Huawei’s pro­ce­dures. Doc­u­men­ta­tion is in­com­plete or con­fus­ing. It is hard to work out how soft­ware is writ­ten or the way de­vices are de­signed.

Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is so com­plex that rul­ing out any pos­si­bil­ity of mis­chief is like cer­ti­fy­ing that a haystack con­tains no nee­dles.

So the real ques­tion is not what Huawei does now, but what it might do in the fu­ture.

Tech­nol­ogy al­lows it to up­date its prod­ucts re­motely — in ef­fect, the com­pany will in­deed have a room in our house over which we have no con­trol.

The key point to re­mem­ber is that all Chi­nese com­pa­nies are man­dated by law to help the coun­try’s in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity ser­vices — in se­cret.

Huawei’s man­agers may want to do noth­ing more than raise their colos­sal sales. But by trust­ing Huawei we are also trust­ing the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist regime, with its record of bru­tal­ity, mis­chief and men­dac­ity.

At home the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties use a sin­is­ter com­bi­na­tion of sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties to cre­ate a Big Brother state far worse than any­thing Ge­orge Or­well con­ceived in his novel 1984.

And al­ready we are see­ing signs of Chi­nese se­cu­rity agen­cies col­lect­ing data on peo­ple out­side the coun­try — to sti­fle dis­sent, ha­rass crit­ics and find tar­gets who could help their in­flu­ence abroad. If the regime in Bei­jing chooses to step up that ef­fort, Huawei, will­ingly or not, will be an ac­com­plice.

By let­ting Huawei in, we ad­mit a po­ten­tially hos­tile power into our midst.

The Prime Min­is­ter likes to quote — in an­cient Greek — Homer’s Iliad about the Tro­jan war. Well can I sug­gest that he refreshes his mem­ory on the mat­ter of the Tro­jan Horse dur­ing that war?

Free­dom

It was the trap which doomed Troy. The Greeks, pre­tended to give up their siege of the city, leav­ing a huge wooden tro­phy — ap­par­ently as a gift.

The Tro­jans wheeled the horse into their city, not re­al­is­ing an elite force of Greek sol­diers were hid­den in­side. The re­sult was dis­as­ter.

Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy would seem like magic to the in­hab­i­tants of the an­cient world, just as their be­liefs seem like su­per­sti­tion to us.

But the ques­tion fac­ing Bri­tain is sim­ple. Do we put con­ve­nience and moder­nity ahead of se­cu­rity?

Or, to put it an­other way, could the gift of Huawei’s 5G tech­nol­ogy turn out to be our Tro­jan Horse?

In short, our free­dom and se­cu­rity are at stake in the de­ci­sion over Huawei. We should choose th­ese val­ues over the su­per­fi­cial prom­ise of short term gain.

Mr John­son should re­mem­ber an­other line — this time in Latin — from Vir­gil, de­scrib­ing the fall of Troy: Timeo Danaos

et dona fer­entes. Beware of Greeks bear­ing gifts. Only this time it’s the Chi­nese.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.