UK bans Chinese CCTV cameras on 'sensitive' government sites
Agencies told to rip 'em off core networks and replace 'em whenever and wherever possible
Updated The United Kingdom has decided Chinese video cameras have no place in government facilities.
"A review of the current and future possible security risks associated with the installation of visual surveillance systems on the government estate has concluded that, in light of the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are required," reads a statement from Oliver Dowden, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (the second-most senior minister in cabinet behind the PM).
"Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment onto sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People's Republic of China," the statement adds.
Government departments have also been "advised that no such equipment should be connected to departmental core networks" and told to consider whether they should remove and replace Chinese video cameras "deployed on sensitive sites" – and do so before planned upgrades.
Departments have also been advised to consider whether there are sites outside the definition of "sensitive" at which they might wish extend the same policy.
The advice does not name companies it feels represent a risk, but politicians have campaigned to ban cameras from partly Chinese state-owned CCTV manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua, on grounds that they have been used as instruments of repression of the Muslim Uighur people in China's Xinjiang province. The US has already barred both vendors from selling their products for the same reason.
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China denies it has abused human rights in Xinjiang, and Chinese tech firms consistently assert that while Chinese law technically requires them to do anything Beijing asks – including surveillance – they have no ambitions beyond delivering excellent products to customers.
But worries persist around the world that the mere presence of Chinese products creates the chance to map networks, which is very useful intelligence, or that workers at Chinese vendors could be members of the Communist Party. The potential for Chinese equipment to be crippled by faulty software updates or even bricked at Beijing's command is also a concern.
The UK announcement does not mention funding to replace Chinese cameras, nor a timeframe for their disconnection and/or replacement. ®
Updated to add:
Hikvision told The Reg in a statement: "It is categorically false to represent Hikvision as a threat to national security. No respected technical institution or assessment has come to this conclusion. Hikvision cannot transmit data from end users to third parties, we do not manage end user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK.
"Our cameras are compliant with the applicable UK rules and regulations and are subject to strict security requirements. We will seek to urgently engage further with ministers to understand this decision."