Hikvision Discontinuing Online Service

By: John Honovich, Published on Dec 12, 2016

Hikvision has declared it will discontinue its Hikvision online service, just days after IPVM's Hikvision Cloud Security Vulnerability Uncovered report. The abrupt move, including blocking logins in a few weeks, is troubling many dealers amidst ongoing security problems with the service.

Determined To Discontinue

Hikvision posted a 'notice' to users logging into the service declaring "all of our customers using the HiDDNS service need to migrate" and that in less than 3 weeks (Dec 30th), logins to the system will be blocked. Notice is copied below:

This has caused notable concern and confusion among Hikvision dealers.

  • No official email or announcement has been made, only the pop up notice when logging in to the system. 
  • The announcement is from China / HQ and suffers from various grammatical errors making it hard to read, e.g., "As the use base continues to grow, a new platform with enhanced supporting capacity is extremely expected. To meet this certain needs..."
  • This service is important to many Hikvision dealers for facilitating remote access. The rapid 'login block' raises operational problems.

UPDATE Hikvision USA Announcement

4 days after Hikvision HQ posted their notice, Hikvision USA has released theirs [link no longer available]. It differs in a number of material ways:

  • Hikvision USA emphasizes this as a migration in the title and opening, however the transition between the systems is completely manual, with no tools or automation to facilitate the process.
  • Also, Hikvision USA acknowledges that the "fully featured Hik-Connect platform" is not ready now and is scheduled for Q1 2017.
  • The 'login block' declaration from Hikvision HQ has been removed from Hikvision USA so it is not clear which is correct. However, Hikvision USA did emphasize that starting Dec 30th, access to Device Status and Device Management will be disabled.
  • For security, Hikvision USA indirectly acknowledged the issues with Hik-online.com, emphasizing that with the other system "Hik-Connect on AWS [they] leverage their best practices to enhance our security."

UPDATE Hikvision Corporate Change

~6 days after the initial announcement from Hikvision corporate, Hikvision has modified the 'notice' (copied above) to remove the 'login block' assertion. That has been replaced with the same language from Hikvision USA's release about blocking "access the Device Status tab or the Device Management tab." The various grammatical problems have not been corrected.

Security Problems

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Hik-online.com has suffered from a number of security problems. The largest, which Hikvision has never publicly acknowledged, is a vulnerability that allowed an "attacker to remotely take over the server." That vulnerability, according to the researcher who discovered it, has been resolved.

However, a number of other vulnerabilities continue to exist. For example, the service does not use HTTPS at all, not for logging nor when logged in to one's account as shown below:

Not using HTTPS for such a service violates basic information security principles.

Moreover, Hik-online.com has a vulnerability that allows obtaining a list of all devices / IP addresses connected, including every new device added. Requests to http://www.hik-online.com/{number} are redirected to the IP address of the device, without any authentication needed. All an attacker needs to do is run a script that increments through the numbers, gathering the IP addresses connected. The gif below shows how Hik-online.com redirects from the number entered to IP addresses:

This provides a master list of probably hundreds of thousands of Hikvision devices that are publicly available on the Internet. From the testing we performed, ~3% of numbers scanned returned available Hikvision IP addresses, many of which were high numbered ports so even if dealers thought this would help obscure the devices from scanning, Hikvision's vulnerability undermines that.

Now Hikvision Wants Internal Network Access

As a replacement for this, Hikvision recommends Hik-connect (see: Hikvision Cloud Service (Ezviz / HikConnect) Tested). This service no longer needs the IP address of the Hikvision device to be made public (through port forwarding, etc.). Not making the device public is good.

However, now Hikvision will use a tunnel inside of one's internal network, through one's firewall. This will require trust that Hikvision has no security vulnerabilities in this service (a challenge given the many vulnerabilities in the current one) and that Hikvision itself will not misuse it.

"Phoning Home to China"

An increasing criticism is that Hikvision cameras are 'phoning home to China'. What is technically happening is that many new Hikvision cameras are being defaulted to automatically, and without user confirmation, phone home to Hik-connect (see Hikvision 'Phone Home' Raises Security Fears). At least for North America Hikvision devices, they are auto programmed to phone home to Amazon Web Services (AWS), though given this is the Internet, once access is established via AWS, it can be accessed from anywhere - China, Chile, Cameroon, etc.

This auto home phone 'feature' is extremely uncommon within video surveillance and none of Hikvision's major competitors (e.g., Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Samsung/Hanwha, Panasonic, etc., etc.) do this. Indeed, 95% of respondents say they prefer not to have any phone home feature automatically enabled (345 respondents).

Now, however, phoning home to their service is Hikvision's recommended migration path.

2016 Hikvision Challenges

Hikvision has grown phenomenally overseas in the past few years.

2015 had their first major challenge as a series of security issues, including a Hikvision engineer copying malware from an online forum into their production mobile app, shook the company.

2016's main challenge, by contrast, was people learning that Hikvision is a China state-owned company, and then having Genetec expel them, followed by a US Embassy removing Hikvision.

Now, Hikvision ends 2016 with a major challenge with its online / cloud service. The company still has immense resources from its China domestic projects plus $6 billion in recent China government funding committed. However, these continued security problems plus the China government control concerns combine for Hikvision's greatest challenge yet.

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