Alex Cole-Hamilton calls on ministers to confirm removal of vulnerable Chinese surveillance cameras from Scottish local authorities
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called on ministers to confirm the removal of Chinese surveillance cameras from Scottish local authorities after it was revealed they are vulnerable to hackers.
Chinese manufacturer Hikvision’s surveillance cameras, which are used by at least 11 Scottish councils, were found to have a “back door” vulnerability that could be taken advantage of by hackers.
The investigation by BBC Panorama into the Chinese-made CCTV cameras, namely Hikvision, whose cameras are used by at least 11 local authorities in Scotland found that hackers were able to take control of the cameras and effectively spy on subjects – in the case of the Panorama’s experiment stealing passwords used to unlock a laptop and a phone.
Working with US-based IPVM, one of the world's leading authorities on surveillance technology, a Hikvision camera was installed in a BBC office. It was found that the camera had a vulnerability that was discovered in 2017.
IPVM's director Conor Healy described this as "a back door that Hikvision built into its own products."
The number of Hikvision cameras used on Scottish streets is unknown.
The CCTV manufacturer told Panorama that they are not a threat to UK national security: “Hikvision has never conducted, nor will it conduct, any espionage-related activities for any government in the world."
They added: “Products are subject to strict security requirements and are compliant with the applicable laws and regulations in the UK, as well as any other country and region we operate in."
Cole-Hamilton said: “There is no way that companies subject to Chinese state intelligence laws should be at the heart of our CCTV systems.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously revealed that at least 11 local authorities use cameras manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision. We also led the way in pressing the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to ensure that these systems were not in use in their own buildings.
“From Hikvision to TikTok, the Scottish Government has consistently dragged its feet in taking action to counter surveillance risks.
“We need ministerial confirmation that Hikvision cameras have been removed from all Scottish Government sites, that local authorities have been contacted and encouraged to remove this technology from their own sites, and that a comprehensive investigation into the reach of the Chinese state in Scotland will take place”.