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Five Eyes meet at UK conference for first time

Paul Brislen, Editor. 29 April 2019, 3:55 pm

The Five Eyes intelligence gathering/sharing group have spoken publicly for the first time following a conference in Scotland.

The alliance, which includes New Zealand along with Australia, the US, UK and Canada, only acknowledged its own existence publicly in 2005 despite years of activity and intelligence gathering, so the idea of them holding a conference is a little unusual, made doubly so by them releasing a public statement after the fact.

The CyberUK conference is the UK government's "flagship cyber security event" and is hosted by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK. While the content of the keynote sessions is classified (not really, just not listed on the agenda), the work streams include sessions on "Collaborating Securely", "Countering the Adversary", "Resilience and Resisting Attack" among others.

While the bulk of the conference focused on broader cyber-security initiatives, Chines telecommunications equipment maker Huawei was also a topic of some discussion, and while outwardly the grouping remains intact, media speculation suggests Australia is becoming increasingly isolated following its decision to ban Huawei from all aspects of its telco networks. Only Australia and the US have a total ban with the UK recently announcing it would allow Huawei to build non-core assets. A senior Australian security expert suggests the UK's move threatens to rip the grouping apart, however other reports suggest a less dramatic result.

New Zealand's GCSB has declined to approve Spark's 5G project plan because of concerns about Huawei's inclusion - something which has seen Huawei New Zealand launch a marketing campaign to persuade Kiwis that the company is not spying on behalf of the Chinese government. The company has offered to pitch only for non-core asset work with regards to Spark and 2Degrees' 5G network builds if that's what is needed to get approval from the GCSB.

However, Reuters reports that a senior US official from the National Security Agency told the conference that the group would not use technology from countries which "posed a threat to critical national infrastructure" and named Huawei explicitly.

"You will see us united and linked that those most sensitive networks … won't have those technologies from those countries that pose a threat to us, whether it's China and Huawei or others."


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