The UK would be "naive" and "irresponsible" to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to contribute to the UK’s next mobile phone network, a defence think-tank says.
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) says Beijing’s history of using cyber attacks to advance Chinese interests in the West showed it was at risk of installing a hidden backdoor in the system.
The RUSI report assessed the ways the Chinese are spying and using so-called ‘soft power’ to achieve their aims in the UK.
It says the risks to the UK include:
:: The covert collection of data from existing Huawei routers used by people in their homes and businesses to access the internet
:: The amassing of a large amount of personal data from online shoppers who use Chinese e-commerce sites which might reveal vulnerabilities
:: The control of increasing amounts of university funding or higher education research opportunities to put pressure on academics who might be critical of China
:: The exclusion or harassment of journalists with UK media organisations wanting to report on China
:: Threats to Britons or Chinese exiles, sometimes in the UK, who China perceives as interfering with its interests, for example in Hong Kong
:: And Chinese espionage on UK soil and threats to critical national infrastructure, like the UK’s energy supply
On Tuesday, UK cyber security chiefs said they believed any risks from using equipment made by Huawei in the rollout of 5G networks can be managed.
But the author of the RUSI report, Charles Parton, a former diplomat with more than 20 years service in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: Allowing Huawei’s participation is at best naive, at worst irresponsible.
The history of China’s cyber attacks shows that an integral part of [Chinese Communist Party] interference abroad is getting access to a wide variety of information.
It is far easier to place a hidden backdoor inside a system than it is to find one.
The RUSI report follows widespread concern in some of the UK’s key allies about increasing Chinese interference in domestic concerns.
Australia’s prime minister last week blamed a sophisticated state actor for a cyberattack on the Australian parliament’s computing network, where China has been suspected of a previous attack.
At the time, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cautioned against unsubstantiated accusations against China.
We should not make unreasonable guesswork and randomly label other countries, he said at a daily media briefing.
Irresponsible reporting, accusation, pressure and sanctions will only aggravate the tension and confrontation in cyberspace and poison the environment of cooperation.
China also detained two Canadians and said it plans to execute a third after Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada, at the behest of the US, which accuses her of violating US sanctions on Iran.
New Zealand, which is one of the Five Eyes countries along with the UK which cooperate on intelligence, has banned Huawei from its communication network.
On Tuesday, Chinese state-owned Global Times claimed Chinese tourists were considering abandoning plans to visit New Zealand to punish the country over the ban.
(c) Sky News 2019: Using Huawei in UK mobile network ‘irresponsible’ due to risk of ‘Chinese interference’, says think-tank