Sunday, March 29, 2009

Huawei: UK Spy Chiefs Fear Chinese Cyber Attack

Michael Smith writes on The Times Online:

Intelligence chiefs have warned that China may have gained the capability to shut down Britain by crippling its telecoms and utilities.

They have told ministers of their fears that equipment installed by Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, in BT’s new communications network could be used to halt critical services such as power, food and water supplies.

The warnings coincide with growing cyberwarfare attacks on Britain by foreign governments, particularly Russia and China.

A confidential document circulating in Whitehall says that while BT has taken steps to reduce the risk of attacks by hackers or organised crime, “we believe that the mitigating measures are not effective against deliberate attack by China”.

It is understood that Alex Allan, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), briefed members of the ministerial committee on national security about the threat from China at a top-secret Whitehall meeting in January.

According to Whitehall sources, the meeting, led by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, heard that ministers had “not paid sufficient attention to the threat in the past”, despite repeated warnings from the intelligence services. These included warnings from the security arm of GCHQ, which expressed concern because government departments, the intelligence services and the military will all use the new BT network.

A Whitehall report is understood to warn that, although there is at present a “low” risk of China exploiting its capability, “the impact would be very high”.

More here.


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