Hikvision's Director Of Cybersecurity And Privacy Says IoT Devices With Backdoors 'Can't Be Used To Spy On Companies, Individuals Or Nations'

from the O-RLY? dept

Hikvision describes itself as "an IoT solution provider with video as its core competency". It hasn't cropped up much here on Techdirt: it was mentioned earlier this year as one of two surveillance camera manufacturers that had been blacklisted by the US government because they were accused of being "implicated in human rights violations and abuses" in Xinjiang. Although little-known in the West, Hikvision is big: it has "more than 42,000 employees, over 20,000 of which are R&D engineers." Given the many engineers Hikvision employs, the following comment by Fred Streefland, Director of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Hikvision EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), reported by IPVM, is rather remarkable:

even devices with backdoors can't be used to spy on companies, individuals, or nations. The security features built into devices, networks, and data centres, combined with end-users data-protection responsibilities, make espionage and other misuses of backdoors impossible.

Streefland expanded on why data protection laws make espionage "impossible":

the end-users who buy these cameras are responsible for the data/video footage they generate. In other words, they're the data custodians who process the data and control the video footage, which is legally required to be kept private. Secret access to video footage on these devices is impossible without the consent of the end-user.

An interesting theory, but not one that security guru Bruce Schneier has much time for. IPVM asked him to comment on Streefland's statements:

I would say that only someone who doesn't understand cybersecurity at all would say something like that. But he's a CSO [Chief Security Officer], so he's probably deliberately saying something that stupid in order to sell you something.

That's a polite way to put it. As many stories on Techdirt attest, IoT products in general, and video cameras in particular, have huge security problems, often caused by backdoors, that have led to all kinds of spying at every level.

It seems that someone at Hikvision has realized just how ludicrous Streefland's comments were. The original source for the IPVM story is an interview with Streefland published by Benchmark Magazine. That interview is taken almost verbatim from a post on Hikvision's own blog, called "Debunking myths in the security industry." By an amazing coincidence, both the original interview and the blog post now lead to "404 not found" messages. Happily, the Internet Archive's indispensable Wayback Machine still has copies of both the interview and the blog post, where Streefland's words of wisdom quoted above can be found, along with some other choice thoughts on security.

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Filed Under: backdoors, cybersecurity, fred streefland, iot, privacy, surveillance
Companies: hikvision


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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Nov 2021 @ 12:24am

    Re: Even a person

    "it could be explained to them How it can be done."

    His job literally depends on him not realizing that fact so it'll be uphill work convincing him.

    I too could spend some time briefing that "expert" on how any IoT device can act as a bridgehead. Your OS may be hardened and firewalled against exterior intrusion but not so much when it concerns the shoddily coded app connecting to your toaster, fridge and thermostat, all of whom connect themselves to their respective OEM - which is unlikely to be all that hardened against a persistent cracker.

    A few likely scenarios include;

    • The NSA knocking at your door after tracing the hack against a military facility or government contractor to your fridge.

    • Your tesla won't start until you fork over a moderate amount of bitcoin to the people with the ransomware keys.

    • Some troll finds out how to tune every smart-TV from Grundig or Apple permanently to redtube and locks it there playing random porn clips 24/7 at max volume.

    • Your toaster hacks your laptop. Next time you log on to the corporate intranet while working from home you've got a trojan riding in it.

    The average old school internet user accesses the internet through two weak point only - their router and their end device. 99% of the time access online is granted via browsers who are in many ways hardened by browser manufacturers long used to being the very first target of any attack. Not secure by any means but usually good enough to stand up to a casual probe.

    The same can't be said if you've bought goods from a hundred different OEM's, many of whom won't be security experts or have bothered to secure their goods in any way, shape or form.

    If I were a betting man I'd put money on there already being national efforts made by every country and computer-savvy criminals, to perfect and optimize script-attacking badly secured IoT devices én másse, for a multitude of uses.


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