London Underground mobile phone network could be hacked during 2012 Olympic Games?

UK Spy fears after Far East firm with alleged links to Chinese military is given all-clear to build mobile phone network on the Tube

Security experts have voiced concern after Business Secretary Vince Cable backed a giant Chinese company that is bidding to build a mobile phone network on the London Underground. The deal between telecoms giant Huawei – accused of having links with the Chinese military – and London Underground is set to be cleared by Ministers. It would mean passengers could use mobiles on the Tube by the time of the 2012 Olympic Games. But cyber and telecom experts warned Huawei represented a potential spying threat and claim the equipment installed could be used to hack into mobile calls or even shut off telephone exchanges. US officials have already claimed that the company could jeopardise national security. They also raised concerns over the founder of the company, Ren Zhenfei, a former member of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The technology that Huawei sells is used by telecoms networks all over the world, including in India and the Middle East. The company has annual revenues of about £14 billion and employs 100,000 people worldwide. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said Mr Cable had not raised any objections to the deal. GCHQ, the Government’s listening facility in Cheltenham, is still reviewing aspects of the technology but is not thought to have tried to block the deal. However, private security experts were concerned about how little resistance there is to the technology in Britain. Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at Cambridge University, said last night: ‘There is a general problem with this sort of kit – it gives someone the potential to turn off our telephone exchanges. And that is the sort of thing that rightly worries the security services.’

  • Concerns: The deal between telecoms giant Huawei and London Underground is set to be cleared by ministers
  • Dr Clayton added that the technology could also allow phone calls to be hacked.
  • He said: ‘There have been issues with this technology in other countries and I only hope our security services are aware of them.’ 
  • But Tim Watkins, Huawei’s vice-president for Western Europe, has denied that his company’s technology represents any security threat to US or British telecoms networks.
  • He said: ‘There is no risk to national security as a result of our equipment.’ Mr Watkins highlighted how leading telecoms operators around the world, including British Telecom, used Huawei’s equipment, adding that there had been no security breaches.
  • He also insisted that the company is privately owned and said it has no links to the Chinese military or security services.
  • Last night the Cabinet Office said: ‘Many large companies have close connections with the military. The Government is working closely with Huawei to ensure its products are safe, secure and resilient in the UK.’

 By ROBERT VERKAIK Daily Mail (UK) March 8, 2011

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