DCMS turns blind eye to Chinese espionage fears

Despite concerns raised on many fronts the government appears to be uninterested in the security threat posed by Chinese telecoms firms.

Techeye reported earlier this week that BT had begun a partnership with ZTE to develop fixed line, mobile and wireless communications technology.

But despite significant concerns raised both here and in the US over links between private firms such as Huawei and ZTE and the Chinese military potentially leaving countries open to either espionage or interference in networks it appears that the government is unfussed about the dangers.

Chinese telecoms firms have a reputation for some rather alarming practices, whether they have been fully proved or not.  They have attracted the attention of security officials in the past here, as well as in many other countries – with the US taking a tough stance on attempts by such firms to position themselves in its domestic market.

One security expert told Techeye that the industry and indeed the government should be doing more to keep an eye on the threat posed by such outfits.

Graham Cluley of Sophos said taht it would be wise for BT to discuss with their peers in the global telecoms industry and other authorities what concerns they might have about firms like ZTE.  Then they should make an informed decision about whether they feel comfortable proceeding with a partnership.  .

BT was reticent to talk about the subject earlier this week and it seems that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, home of Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, were not taking the warnings seriously.

After a substantial consultation with its policy officials on the issue the department decided that “there is no role for DCMS” in commercial business such as this, despite warnings from the Joint Intelligence Committee to ministers in 2009 about this very issue.

While the deal between BT and ZTE does not appear to offer any imminent danger, what is alarming is that there seems to be little interest in monitoring this potential danger by the industry or the government.

It might be one of those cases that secret data from a snooped on phone ends up in China and everyone acts all surprised.  Other than us of course.  We will be linking to this story and saying “we told you so.”