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UK's NCSC Advises Against ZTE Telecom Equipment

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Following an announcement by the US Commerce Department that it intended to ban US companies from supplying optical and other high performance components to China-based ZTE, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) advised recently against the use of ZTE equipment in UK telecommunications networks. The post is being backed by a letter addressed to the UK telecommunications community.

The NCSC is part of the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a group that provides signal intelligence and related services to the UK government and military. The NCSC aims to prevent cyber attacks, manage such incidents, and improve UK network security. Like other governmental agencies in the US and elsewhere including the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the NCSC has expressed concerns that the close relationships between major Chinese telecom, datacom and smartphone manufacturers and the Chinese government may provide a 'backdoor' into telecommunications and data transport systems.

"It is entirely appropriate and part of NCSC's duty to highlight potential risks to the UK's national security and provide advice based on our technical expertise," according to Dr. Ian Levy, technical director of the NCSC, via the website post. "NCSC assess 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 post does not detail what has led the NCSC to this conclusion, although it does describe ZTE as "a Chinese state-owned enterprise." The post also refers to a letter Dr. Levy has sent to UK telecommunications network operators providing more detail; a press report suggests the letter states that, with Huawei equipment already in use within UK telecommunications networks, adding equipment from a second Chinese hardware vendor would pose an untenable security risk.

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