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UK Defense Secretary Sacked Over Huawei Leak

03 May 2019


Opposition parties are calling for a criminal inquiry after the UK defense secretary was sacked for allegedly leaking news of the government’s decision to allow Huawei to supply parts of its 5G network.


Gavin Williamson reportedly refused to resign when confronted with evidence suggesting he leaked details of the highly sensitive decision made by the National Security Council to a Daily Telegraph journalist.


Prime Minister Theresa May duly sacked him, although Williamson has since gone on the offensive, claiming his firing was a “witch hunt” and that he was tried “in a kangaroo court with summary execution.”


Although he admitted speaking to a journalist from the paper in question for 11 minutes on the day of the leak, he maintains it came from outside his team.


Now Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders are calling for a criminal investigation into whether the Official Secrets Act was broken.


“This story cannot begin and end with dismissal from office,” Lib Dem leader Vince Cable is reported as saying. “What is at stake is the capacity of our security services to give advice at the highest level.”


Williamson was one of several cabinet ministers said to have raised concerns about Theresa May’s decision to allow Huawei to provide “non-core” equipment for Britain’s 5G networks.


The security services have continuously sought to downplay the risk of Chinese intelligence interference in its kit going forward, although they have highlighted serious issues with the quality of the engineering and coding, which could itself be exploited by spies.


A Bloomberg report this week claimed that Vodafone found hidden backdoors in Huawei kit in 2011 and 2012 “that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy.”


However, Vodafone itself denied the claims, stating that the incident was “nothing more than a failure to remove a diagnostic function after development.”


"The 'backdoor' that Bloomberg refers to is Telnet, which is a protocol that is commonly used by many vendors in the industry for performing diagnostic functions. It would not have been accessible from the internet,” the statement continued.


"Bloomberg is incorrect in saying that this 'could have given Huawei unauthorised access to the carrier's fixed-line network in Italy'.”


The journalist has since taken to Twitter to defend his story, saying:


“Vodafone found a non-documented Telnet Service built by Huawei with hardcoded credentials on a non-standard port that was re-added after being found a first time through security testing and removed, according to Vodafone IT Incident Report. Vodafone called it ‘Telnet Backdoor’.”


If nothing else, the incidents highlight the high stakes for national governments when deciding whether to allow Chinese companies to compete for what will be an essential part of critical infrastructure for many years.

Source: Info Security Group

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