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Authoritarian Tech

Cybersecurity chiefs gather in UK amidst Huawei controversy

On Wednesday, representatives of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance took the stage at Glasgow’s CyberUK conference. Though the event was meant to showcase unity in the face of global cyber-threats, it was partly overshadowed by a fresh controversy that shone light on a rift within the alliance.

Earlier this week, report indicated that the UK government will, despite American pressure, allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to help build its 5G mobile internet network, though the UK’s digital minister countered that no final decision has been made yet.

For the US, this is a sensitive issue. The current administration has for months been leading an international campaign to prevent Huawei from building the next generation of telecommunications infrastructure. As part of this push, it has pressured its ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partners — Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand — to block Huawei from participating in building 5G networks in those countries. But this week, The Daily Telegraph reported that the UK would still allow Huawei to build certain parts of the network, though the UK’s digital minister countered that no final decision has been made yet.

5G internet networks would be faster and more resilient than current connections and quicker lead to the take up of Internet of Things devices, such as driverless cars.

But it’s precisely the scale of 5G’s future role that has the US government and some security experts worried. They believe Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government could give China more power over the global internet, and potentially even let the Chinese snoop on Western telecommunications.

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