Compliance & Strategy

UK needs to talk to China to ensure cybersecurity


As the UK’s cybersecurity situation becomes more uncertain and vulnerable day by day, top cyber intelligence officers have spoken out about seeking alternative arrangements to ensure a more protected digital environment across the country.

Specifically, technical director of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, Ian Levy, has declared that the UK ought to forge a cyber relationship with China – a softer stance to the earlier warnings and red flags that were raised against Chinese companies – due to its rapid technological advance, great online influence, and its ability to provide support on a cybersecurity front.

During a speech at the Atlantic Future Forum in New York, delivered to a crowd of cyber professionals and military and intelligence executives, Levy said: “Like it or not, we are going to have to talk to China. The reality is they will own a huge chunk of internet structure going forward.

“Like it or not like it, they have 1.4 billion people who are going to be cybercrime victims. Like it or not like it, we are going to have to talk to them because we are going to get all the collateral damage from those attacks.”

Such claims have sparked debate amongst cybersecurity leaders, with much resistance coming from other western countries, namely the USA and Australia. So much so, Australia has banned Chinese technology firms like Huawei and ZTE from developing 5G networks in the Australian market, whilst US President Donald Trump has even accused China of spying on phone calls made on his iPhone.

In response to Levy’s speech, Michael Chertoff, who operated the US Department of Homeland Security until 2009 said: “There are probably some areas where we can reach agreement on the rules of the road. But there is another part of what they do that is diametrically opposed to what we do in terms of exporting tools for authoritarianism… massive theft of intellectual property and industrial scale espionage.”

Although a UK watchdog that monitors Huawei’s technology in Britain has only offered a “limited assurance” over the potential hacking threats, the products pose to national security, Levy has declared the UK ought to be engaging with Chinese telecommunication companies like Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

Former director of the National Security Agency, Keith Alexander, supported Levy’s claims but emphasised that western countries needed to work alongside each other in equal measure before approaching the Chinese: “I do feel we think we have to work with China and come up with a relationship that works. You cannot ignore it."

About Lee Hazell

Lee Hazell is a cyber security consultant with a keen interest in anything tech or security related. Follow Lee on .

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