Thursday 11 June 2020 6:12 pm

HPE boss warns of Huawei cyberattacks

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) managing director has warned of “data loss, privacy breaches and cyberattacks” if the government proceeds with Huawei technology in its 5G rollout.

Speaking to City AM, Marc Waters said: “Securing the future of the UK’s mobile networks is a vital issue. Data loss, privacy breaches, and cyberattacks on individuals, organizations and governments are possible if control of 5G networks falls into the wrong hands.”

Waters called on the government to instead “adopt a more open and innovation-forward approach” in building Britain’s 5G infrastructure. “Securing the future of the UK’s mobile networks is a vital issue,” he added.

It comes after the HPE boss this week sent a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to hold a meeting with technology providers to flesh out the UK’s decision on “potentially unsafe technology” made by the Chinese vendor.

The letter stated: “We should be looking to future-proof the UK’s networks to adapt to new technologies, not seeking to further entrench a limited number of vendors’ positions by granting supplier rights, particularly when such grave security concerns are apparent.”

HPE is one of a number of businesses building open source alternatives to help telecoms firms reduce their reliance on the Chinese firm.

“The reality of 5G… is that there will be more options for supply, not less, and consequently fewer reasons to include potentially unsafe technology in UK networks,” Waters wrote.

It comes after Vodafone this week warned that the UK would lose its footing as a global leader in 5G if it stripped out billions of pounds worth of existing Huawei technology.

Scott Petty, Vodafone UK chief technology officer, said: “The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment.”

“We are not tied to one supplier,” he added. “But it is important to understand the extent of what is at stake here.”

Petty’s comments came as Boris Johnson faces increasing pressure to abandon a deal permitting Huawei to build 35 per cent of the UK’s 5G network, over fears technology made by the company could be used for spying by the Chinese state. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.

BT, which owns the EE network, has said it would cost the company £500m to comply with the government’s 35 per cent cap on Huawei equipment.

Waters acknowledged the potential cost fallouts of abandoning Huawei, but said the UK must move forward on a secure path. “I understand the concerns of those network operators that have already made significant investments with Huawei… This is clearly not an easy decision for the government,” he said. 

“This is why I have urged the Prime Minister to call a summit of technology providers and mobile network operators to… catalyse moves towards a more secure and diversified telecommunications market”.

Last month the National Cyber Security Centre — a branch of GCHQ — launched an emergency review on the back of fresh US sanctions aimed at the Chinese vendor. 

US President Donald Trump, who is a vociferous opponent of Huawei, has repeatedly pressured Johnson to scrap the UK’s deal with Huawei. The Financial Times reported that the President vented his “apoplectic” fury at the PM after hearing he had given the Chinese firm the green light.

HPE executives met with US government officials earlier this year following a push by US President Donald Trump to seek alternatives to Huawei.