NCSC Warns Mobile Operators To Stock Up On Huawei Parts

UK computer security officials have told mobile phone operators to stockpile spare parts from Huawei amidst new US measures against the Chinese company.

Senior officials from GCHQ’s National Computer Security Centre (NCSC) wrote to BT, Vodafone and others earlier this month telling them to maintain adequate supplies of spare parts from all manufacturers, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

The letter also warned Huawei’s ability to continue to provide some components.

“Ensuring that products and components are kept up-to-date is essential to maintaining the security of networks,” the NCSC wrote.

‘Escalating action’

“Escalating US action against Huawei may affect its ability to provide updates for products containing US technology.”

In recent years the NCSC has warned of security issues affecting critical infrastructure.

Huawei is a key supplier to UK mobile phone networks, and the government in January agreed to allow it to supply next-generation 5G equipment in the country.

At the time, officials designated Huawei a “high-risk” vendor and capped its 5G market share at 35 percent.

More recently, in May the US launched export control measures aimed at cutting off Huawei’s access to semiconductors manufactured by non-US firms that use US equipment or software.

Following the move, the NCSC said it would conduct a fresh probe into the impact of the US measures and the government said it would review whether to allow Huawei to sell 5G equipment to UK operators.

A decision on the issue is due in the coming weeks.

‘Precautionary steps’

“The NCSC has provided operators with a series of precautionary steps we recommend they take while we carefully consider the impact these sanctions have on the UK’s networks,” the NCSC said in a statement.

Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said the company is working with customers to ensure business continuity.

“We strongly oppose politically motivated actions by the US that are designed to damage our business and are not based on evidence,” Zhang said.

The US has accused Huawei of posing a national security threat, but has not provided specific evidence to back up the claim.  Huawei has denied it poses a threat.

Last week former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, who now chairs the Pentagon’s Defence Innovation Board, told the BBC that Huawei had engaged in “practices that are not acceptable in national security”, without providing specific examples.

“Huawei is independent from any government, including the Chinese government,” Huawei’s Zhang said at the time.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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