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), 24 Nov 2021 @ 4:19am

    Re: It's ok, I locked it...

    "And it is absolutely inconceivable that a malicious actor, with a long history of picking locks or kicking down doors, could possibly get past this."

    You forgot to add "...We guarantee the only people we provided with skeleton keys to said backdoors are law enforcement officials, national security officials, medical officials, insurance auditors, city health and safety regulation officials, fire safety officials, various key personnel serving the departments mentioned above. None of which have ever reported a skeleton key missing or copied. Trust us."


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