UK spy agency warns Brit telcos to flee from ZTE gear

GCHQ's cyber guys don't say why...


GCHQ's cyber security advice group has formally warned of the risk of using ZTE equipment and services for the UK's telco infrastructure.

The National Cyber Security Centre, the cyber part of the UK's nerve centre, founded in 2016, has written to UK telecoms companies warning that using gear from the Chinese firm "would present risk to UK national security that could not be mitigated effectively or practicably".

In a statement, the British spooky agency confirmed the veracity of an FT report, but declined to elaborate on what specific vulnerability or threat had prompted the assessment:

"NCSC assess[es] that the national security risks arising from the use of ZTE equipment or services within the context of the existing UK telecommunications infrastructure cannot be mitigated," the agency told us in a statement.

Both Huawei and ZTE have been singled out by US spooks and Congress-critters as posing a potential threat. Unlike privately owned Huawei, with its roots in the bustling Hong Kong trading area, ZTE is a state-owned enterprise, and that's something the NCSC has pointed out.

However Huawei worked hard to address concerns, establishing a centre in Banbury, close to GCHQ, Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, nicknamed "the Cell". This allowed spooks to examine Huawaei's wares, including its source code. After initial issues about oversight, officials declared the Cell a success.

"HCSEC fulfilled its obligations in respect of the provision of assurance that any risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks have been sufficiently mitigated," the third annual report by the centre's Oversight Board noted last year. HCSEC demands the full source code to Huawei's products so it can rebuild the binaries and replicate their functionality. This isn't always easy, the report noted, due to "complex and subtle technical issues".

No backdoor has ever been found in any Huawei phone, but in 2012 one was found in a ZTE phones.

Last March we exclusively revealed that ZTE's Tier 2 visa licence had been suspended by the Home Office. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Memory maker Micron moots $150bn mega manufacturing moneybag

    AI and 5G to fuel demand for new plants and R&D

    Chip giant Micron has announced a $150bn global investment plan designed to support manufacturing and research over the next decade.

    The memory maker said it would include expansion of its fabrication facilities to help meet demand.

    As well as chip shortages due to COVID-19 disruption, the $21bn-revenue company said it wanted to take advantage of the fact memory and storage accounts for around 30 per cent of the global semiconductor industry today.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021