In response to recent concerns surrounding the prevalence of Hikvision security cameras, due to the manufacturers Chinese Government ownership, the ABC ran a news report looking into the privacy and security risks of allowing so much Chinese owned technology in the Australian market.
The ABC found our recent article on the risks of using Hikvision products and got in touch. As a result, owner Kamal Chauhan appeared in the ABC report, adding commentary to the issue and reiterating West-Tec’s stance against installing Hikvision equipment.
You can watch the report here: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/banned-chinese-cameras-are-being-used-by-the/10239036
LEIGH SALES: Whenever you see a security camera on a street corner, a bus or even in your home, chances are they may have been made by a Chinese surveillance company.
In the US, the two big brands that make most of them, Hikvision and Dahua, are already banned due to allegations of foreign espionage.
7.30 can reveal, that here in Australia, cameras made by those firms are not only used in everyday locations, they’ve been found inside an Adelaide air force base and at the office of one of Australia’s intelligence agencies.
This report from Dylan Welch and producer Kyle Taylor.
DYLAN WELCH, REPORTER: Kamal is being watched.
He’s on his way to work, and he’s counting CCTV cameras.
KAMAL CHAUHAN, PRIVATE SECURITY CONSULTANT: I see cameras all around the university campus there. Street poles —
So, I’d say anywhere between 15–100 cameras easily, on the way to work.
DYLAN WELCH: He’s keenly aware of how many eyes are on him.
Because he installs the cameras for a living.
KAMAL CHAUHAN: Predominantly I find they’re coming from China.
Because they are so much cheaper, they’re flooding the market.
DYLAN WELCH: On almost every corner of almost every street of Australia’s major cities, you will find a surveillance camera.
A substantial number of those are made in China
And the two big Chinese brands, are Hikvision and Dahua.
VOICEOVER: You don’t need to see my continued surveillance and precise automation with machine vision.
DYLAN WELCH: Hikvision is 42 per cent owned by the Chinese Government’s defence research arm.
VOICEOVER: At Hikvision, we are committed to unleashing the power of machine vision.
DYLAN WELCH: Dahua is privately owned, but cyber security expert, Fergus Hanson says that all Chinese companies, pose a risk.
FERGUS HANSON, AUS STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Because of Chinese laws, there’s a requirement to engage in espionage on behalf of the state.
DYLAN WELCH: And, both companies have had security flaws exposed.
Leading to fears some of the flaws may have been placed there, to help the Chinese Government spy.
FERGUS HANSON: You can remotely access them, so, for example, from China to another location around the world, and essentially see what that camera’s seeing.
The passwords are available online.
If they’re not properly configured, they provide all kinds of vulnerability.
So, just as a precaution, they’re not particularly secure cameras.
They provide, obviously vision in a whole bunch of sensitive locations, and China is really trying to set itself up as the number one country for cyber espionage and this is a key part of the platform.
DYLAN WELCH: Since last year, political concern about foreign interference in Australia, has been at fever pitch.
ANDREW HASTIE, MP: In Australia, it is clear that the Chinese Communist Party, is working to covertly interfere with our media and also influence our political processes.
GEORGE CHRISTENSEN, MP: We must put aside fear of lost trade and assess the slow creep of Chinese influence and ownership of our strategic assets.
MALCOLM TURNBULL, FORMER PM: The Australian people stand up.
DYLAN WELCH: The US has also been struggling with a response, to the growth of Chinese influence.
Last month, the US government banned its agencies from using surveillance cameras made by these same Chinese companies, as part of an annual defence purchasing bill.
It prohibits the use of risky technologies, produced by companies with links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Back home, we’ve uncovered evidence of the same Chinese cameras banned by the US, being used by Defence, a building that hosts an intelligence agency and several national security departments — state Government departments, education providers and local councils, at train stations, even in use at the ABC.
When we alerted these agencies, many were either unaware or unconcerned, about the potential security vulnerabilities.
Most appeared more concerned about our cameras.
We thought we’d be alright because we’re on public land.
Of all the cameras the ABC News found, perhaps the most worrying was the Hikvision camera, hanging at one of Australia’s most sensitive military facilities, RAAF Base Edinburgh in Adelaide.
Edinburgh is one of the centres of Australia’s military intelligence, aerial surveillance and electronic warfare.
As a result of our inquiries, Defence removed the Hikvision camera, and said it would also remove others they found.
FERGUS HANSON: It’s a real dereliction of duty, I think to have them in military bases or in anywhere where you’re going to have basically secure operations.
But even on the street, you’ve got the potential to inadvertently contribute towards Chinese espionage activity, by providing real-time information about the situation on the ground.
KAMAL CHAUHAN: That’s a Hikvision camera.
This one over here, another Hikvision camera.
DYLAN WELCH: Toby Walsh is a professor of artificial intelligence.
TOBY WALSH, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: There’s two things about the next generation cameras, one is the resolution, the ability to see you in difficult situations and the second is the software.
We’ve got image recognition, we can recognise people’s faces very easily now automatically, we can recognise people from their gait.
DYLAN WELCH: A leading surveillance website, IPBM, published a detailed account, earlier this year describing how Hikvision are using artificial technology to identify ethnic minorities in China.
In a statement, Hikvision said it has never conducted, nor will conduct, any espionage-related activities for any government in the world.
Dahua has also previously said the same thing.
It’s not just Chinese CCTV manufactures, that are accused of passing on the data they collect to the Chinese state.
This camera, that we’re filming on right now, is made by Dajiang Innovations, known as DJI.
If you’ve ever owned a consumer drone or heard one buzzing overhead, chances are, it was made by DJI.
Their control of the camera drone market globally, as such that two out of every three drones sold, are made by DJI.
And, they’ve also been accused of spying.
VOICEOVER: At DJI, we created the flying camera as you know it.
And, there’s a good chance that the drone videos you’ve seen online, were shot with one of our cameras.
DYLAN WELCH: The US military banned DJI drones after research found, they posed unacceptable cyber security risks.
TOBY WALSH: The fact there’s information leaking from the drones, they’re connected to the Internet, anything that’s connected to the Internet, you’ve got to think that data might leak to someone or the owners of the manufacture.
Even the GPS coordinates, tell you things about the world.
I would be very worried both about benevolence, there are people possibly in China, possibly in Russian and elsewhere, who would have evil intent, to try to take this information.
DYLAN WELCH: Australian government tenders revealed that DJI, have sold their camera drones to every part of the Australian defence force.
Air force Air Command, Army Forces Command, Navy Strategic Command and, perhaps most worryingly, the Army’s Special Operations Headquarters.
Last year, the Australian Defence force announced a temporary ban on military use of consumer drones, in response to the US army’s DJI prohibition.
After a 2-week risk assessment, they announced the drones were flying again, under new operating procedures.
A defence spokesperson declined to say what those new operating procedures are or how they use the drones, except to say they believe it is safe.
This video released by Defence last month, has been showing off their new DJI drones, at a training facility in Queensland.
Robi Sen, is a former US government security researcher, who now designs software to protect government and companies against the misuse of drones.
ROBI SEN, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: Corporations have routinely told us that, for example, you cannot access our drones’ information.
DJI is a great example. And then we do.
Our company makes a product that essentially takes over these drones and devices and allows you to access the information and if we can do it, other people can do it.
And, other people have shown this.
DYLAN WELCH: We contacted DJI headquarters, in China several times for this story but received no response.
ROBI SEN: I’m still not satisfied with their security level response.
It’s still not up to snuff.
DYLAN WELCH: The same can be said for Hikvision and Dahua.
Security consultant, Kamal Chauhan says that he won’t be installing any more CCTV cameras, with links to the Chinese Government.
KAMAL CHAUHAN: No, definitely not. I’ll sell something else but not those cameras.
LEIGH SALES: Dylan Welch, reporting.