Feeds

Huawei CTO insists: 'We are not a threat to UK and US national security'

We're just a box and packet shifter like everyone else, says Sanqi Li

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Exclusive A top Huawei exec has dismissed claims that his company poses a threat to British and US national security - despite Western government officials' fears over Huawei's alleged connections to the Chinese Communist Party.

Professor Sanqi Li - speaking in an exclusive interview with The Register at the multinational's R&D centre in Stockholm, Sweden - repeatedly attempted to paint a picture of a benign company that simply deals with "packet in, packet out".

When pressed about Parliament's concerns that Huawei may have too much control over Blighty's critical infrastructure and communications systems - based on claims that the company's chairman (and erstwhile member of the People's Liberation Army) Ren Zhengfei was helping Chinese authorities to spy on the Western world - Li said: "No, we are not a threat".

He added: "There's no substance, just more speculation."

Li, the company's Carrier Business Group CTO, said Huawei, which provides equipment to Britain's one-time national telco BT, was an easy target because it is a Chinese company that operates in the Western world. But he insisted fears of compromised national security presented an industry-wide problem for all tech outfits.

"Because of the internet technologies and the security issues with the new digital age, it becomes much more challenging than what people originally expected," Li said in a clear nod to this year's NSA-GCHQ scandal: "Now you've seen what's happened recently."

He continued: "People thought the infrastructure was the corner point of the security, but it's actually in the data centres and the devices... It's a great challenge. Huawei's position has always been, how to join the community of the world, work together to find the way to solve these security issues."

Li said that the entire industry was having to deal with the fact that different countries and different governments had different controls, rules and regulations. But he described those challenges as being "secondary" to working with the open community to develop standards that help "to solve the security issue".

But what of the specific allegations that Huawei helps the Chinese government's espionage programme?

Li insisted that his company simply provides the kit to operators who then manage those systems.

"Yes, data are passing through the Huawei equipment from a network perspective... packet in, packet out. But it doesn't store the data. We do develop the products to enable carriers to operate the network... most of the intelligence in the data centre is where the data is stored."

He added: "We are the provider of network infrastructure to a great extent. People may have misunderstood a lot of things."

More recently, however, Huawei has moved into the consumer devices market by developing its own range of smartphones, for example. The company's CTO told us - as recently proved by Microsoft's planned buyout of Nokia - it's hard to survive on one technology now. Li said that infrastructure, cloud and devices were key for vendors in today's market.

Li told us he was surprised to hear about claims that some unnamed tech companies based in the US and abroad were alleged to be collaborating with spooks to build backdoors into their equipment.

"I'm glad people recognise the issues are much more complicated in this new digital economy. How do you set the rules, the governance, the policy? It's still unknown," he said.

Li said that having so many apps located in the cloud meant that companies - such as Yahoo! and Google - were "exposed more in the data centre".

He repeatedly claimed that Huawei was simply a provider of equipment to carriers. Li said he was routinely asked the same question about whether the company had provided entry points into its gear for China's government to listen in.

"'You are a Chinese company, you're Huawei', people say, but it's a challenge to all." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.