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UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson echoes US alarms over Huawei

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Gavin WilliamsonBritish Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.REUTERS/Toby Melville

  • The UK’s Defence Secretary said he has ‘deep concerns’ about using equipment from Chinese firm Huawei in the UK’s upcoming 5G networks.
  • Gavin Williamson is the first UK government figure to issue such a warning, after similar alarm over Huawei in the US.
  • Huawei is banned from Australia’s 5G networks, and is effectively banned in the US over fears it enables spying by the Chinese government.
  • Huawei has always denied building backdoors into its own kit.

The UK’s Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said he has ‘grave, very deep concerns’ about using equipment from Chinese firm Huawei in Britain’s 5G infrastructure.

According to The Times, Williamson said the UK would need to examine the possible security threats as it upgrades its mobile networks over the next two years.

“I have grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain. It’s something we’d have to look at very closely,” he said. “We’ve got to look at what partners such as Australia and the US are doing in order to ensure that they have the maximum security of that 5G network and we’ve got to recognise the fact, as has been recently exposed, that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way.”

Huawei is one of the most popular consumer smartphone brands in the world and sells more phones than Apple globally. But Western governments are sounding the alarm over Huawei’s core telecommunications business, due to concerns its equipment contains flaws that enable spying by the Chinese government.

The company has always denied that its equipment contains “backdoors” in this way. In a statement to The Times, Huawei said it had “never been asked by any government to build any backdoors or interrupt any networks, and we would never tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff.”

The UK is due to shift over to superfast 5G networks from 2019, with telcos such as BT and O2 beginning to run small-scale trials. There are also broader concerns about having a Chinese company dominate so much of the UK’s critical infrastructure.

HuaweiREUTERS/Stringer

Alex Younger, the head of M16, warned earlier in December that the UK needed to examine its relationships with Chinese tech companies closely.

He said at the time: “We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a very definite position.”

Read more: An arrest, a debutante ball, and 3 marriages: Inside the lives of the super rich Huawei dynasty

The US has taken a much stronger stance against Huawei, reportedly pressuring local telcos like AT&T not to sell the firm’s smartphones. And in August 2018, president Donald Trump signed a bill banning Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, from use by the government and contractors. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US has asked its allies to follow suit. Both Huawei and ZTE are banned in Australia from having any part in its 5G networks.

The UK’s biggest telecoms firm, BT, has already said it will remove Huawei’s equipment from its existing EE mobile networks, and won’t use its kit in its 5G network. The company said the decision was made to bring EE’s networks in line with its existing legacy infrastructure.

Huawei is still permitted to sell phones in the UK and, given its difficulties in the US, Europe remains one of its biggest consumer markets. The Chinese firm also has a facility in Banbury, Oxford, which runs security tests on its own equipment. That facility is regularly scrutinised by British intelligence agency GCHQ.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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