4 Apr 2023

Government needs coordinated response to Chinese-made cameras - security expert

4:01 pm on 4 April 2023
Milan, Italy - August 10, 2018: Hikvision video surveillance cameras on pole . The brand is widespread throughout the world

An opposition lawmaker said his own audit had revealed almost 1000 units of equipment by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology Co - two partly state-owned Chinese firms - were installed across more than 250 Australian government offices (file picture). Photo: 123RF

Cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua - both of which are partly state-owned by the Chinese Communist Party - have been found in New Zealand government buildings.

A cyber security expert says it is not surprising more cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies are being installed in government departments.

Cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua - both of which are partly state-owned by the CCP - have been found in government buildings, but neither Labour nor National are concerned.

New Zealand government departments, including police and Oranga Tamariki, have confirmed they are currently using CCTV cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua.

The cameras are also commonly used in schools and by businesses and councils.

In Australia, the UK, and the United States moves have been made to ban the products from some government departments over fears of the use of spywear.

A spokesperson for New Zealand Police said there were an estimated 60 Hikvision or Dahua cameras at a limited number of its sites.

Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development both said they had some Hikvision cameras.

All three agencies said the cameras do not have network connectivity, and are being phased out.

CyberCX executive director of security Adam Boileau told Midday Report a number of New Zealand's allies had expressed some concerns about the cameras but that was a relatively recent development.

In addition to general data security, concerns raised in other jurisdictions included "the behaviour of these companies in terms of human rights" as well as "general concern that companies in China ultimately have to answer to the Chinese Communist Party", he said.

"We've seen the United States, we've seen Australia and the UK all raise concerns around equipment from these manufacturers, but not quite to the same extent as we saw with, say Huawei, back when we were talking about 5G mobile telephone network rollouts."

More concerning, he said, was the lack of centralised guidance for government departments in New Zealand about how they should approach these types of potential cyber security issues.

"They have a minister for cyber in Australia - which we don't have here - because it's such an important issue," he said.

"I think that we are not as forward in that conversation as some of our allies are."

Boileau said those overseas jurisdictions expressing "a degree of concern" over the cameras did not appear to be ditching the technology immediately.

"It doesn't seem to be to the level of 'let's rip all the gear out', but [more], if you're in a position where this stuff comes to the end of its life and it's time to consider replacing it, then doing so from vendors that are more aligned to Western interests seems to be the general suggestion."

Minister confident government departments' security requirements are 'robust'

The minister responsible for the spy agencies, Andrew Little, said he had seen nothing to raise his concern levels around the use of Chinese-made security cameras.

He was confident in the security requirements New Zealand's departments had to follow.

"I'm not quite sure what more robust regime we could have apart from a very clear and mandated set of requirements that departments are reviewed against annually."

The opposition National Party wants an audit into the use of such cameras across the country.

Chinese Embassy response

The Chinese Embassy in New Zealand expressed concern about media reports of the cameras and said they contained groundless accusations against China and spread suspicion and fear.

"We hope and trust that the New Zealand media, public and government authorities will make independent judgement based on the merits of the matter and the interests of New Zealand, and create an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment, and thus a level playing field for companies, technologies and products from different countries, in accordance with the relevant rules of the WTO and other international multilateral institutions, and the commitments we have all made together," the Embassy statement said.

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