"New Zealand Govt Uses Chinese Cameras Banned In US", Considers Security AuditBy: Charles Rollet, Published on Oct 12, 2018
In this note, we look at what happened in New Zealand, its recent history with China, and the broader implications of the report.
Where The Cameras Were Found
Newsroom NZ, a news website based in the capital of Wellington, reported today that it found Hikvision cameras “in plain sight” in the reception areas of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment’s Auckland offices.
The MBIE is the main ministry responsible for economic development in New Zealand, handling everything from work visas to government procurement. The MBIE is currently developing a “national electronic security procurement project” while also promoting a cybersecurity awareness campaign.
Newsroom NZ also reported that Hikvision cameras are used by the government to film Auckland traffic from a skyscraper and by local authorities to fight crime in two other cities, Tauranga and Whanganui.
Newsroom NZ got a response from the MBIE saying that the ministry would consider an audit of all its CCTV systems and would establish clear standards for the national procurement project:
"We do not see any cause for concern but are looking to undertake an audit of all our CCTV systems,” the Ministry said in its response.
“We are working through a national electronic security procurement project that will further clarify controls on specifications and standards"
The ministry also downplayed security fears, saying:
We have a range of CCTV suppliers covering our needs in New Zealand and international offices. Our cameras operate on a closed circuit and are not connected to MBIE’s or other networks.
China Influence in New Zealand Already Under Close Scrutiny
The Hikvision issue is of particular salience in New Zealand given the country’s repeated tensions with China over espionage and covert influence.
Earlier this year, the home of a professor critical of China was illegally broken into, with Chinese agents the suspected culprits.
It was also revealed in 2017 that a New Zealand parliamentarian of Chinese background was educated and taught at Chinese government espionage academies.
Impact – More Challenges For Hikvision
Overall, New Zealand’s response was less harsh than in the US and Australia, where Hikvision cameras in sensitive locations were removed outright upon their discovery by journalists.
Nevertheless, this represents yet another blow to Hikvision’s global ambitions, showing that the US and Australia bans are causing media outlets and governments around the world to wonder whether their countries should be using Hikvision cameras as well.
The Newsroom NZ article also made reference to Hikvision’s cybersecurity issues, backdoor reports, Chinese government backing, and even cited IPVM’s list of Hikvision OEM users – all highly unwanted attention for Hikvision.
Publicly, Hikvision has remained largely, if not completely, quiet. Hikvision declined to comment for this New Zealand report, similar to their lack of comments in Australia, France, and the US.
The most recent external Hikvision comment related to these type of reports was a dealer-only letter following the previous month's Australia national news investigation:
In that response, Hikvision emphasized that there was 'no evidence anywhere' of malicious misuse while enumerating steps they had taken to improve their cybersecurity. However, Hikvision did not address their China government ownership nor control.