The Chinese government is behind the largest maker of security cameras, owning 42% of Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology. In fact, Hikvision grew out of a government laboratory started a half-century ago to develop military and industrial technologies.
With low prices, Hikvision surveillance cameras are the second best seller in the U.S. and American distributors often re-brand then resell these cameras under another name.
Yet this multiple-step sale, coupled with the Chinese government’s large stake and the technology’s quick rise, has raised red flags about the security of Hikvision technology.
Last May, the US Department of Homeland Security warned of a loophole in some of Hikvision’s cameras that makes the software readily exploitable by hackers. This risk prompted DHS to assign its worst security rating to Hikvision. Concern has also been generated in regards to the camera's use. Many American security vendors are concerned that Hikvision products may be used to spy on customers and gather information — a concern that upturns any sense of security the cameras give users by invading their privacy. Chinese authorities, unfettered by privacy concerns, openly encourage new surveillance projects using artificial-intelligence or more innovative techniques in an effort to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers.
Takeaway: There is no sure way of knowing how much diligence underlies certain security technology equipment. Companies must be aware that technology from third party vendors has the potential to be compromised and there little information on where it has been and no guarantee that it is 100% secure.