Repercussions are rippling through the physical security industry since President Trump signed into law the ban on government uses of surveillance equipment by Chinese manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua. In addition to the direct and indirect consequences of the new law, there have also been other developments likely to impact the future of Chinese companies in the video surveillance market.

The ban has raised awareness of Chinese companies’ role in video surveillance, and other developments are related to tariffs and possible sanctions, all playing out amid the backdrop of an escalating trade war.

One Chinese manufacturer previously dismissed security concerns about its role in video surveillance as “Cold War rhetoric.” There has been an almost nostalgic tone recently to the escalating concerns about video cameras being used for spying.

Hikvision and Dahua have both stated emphatically that they have not conducted any espionage-related activities. Even so, the U.S. government ban has emboldened the concerns. However, to be clear: No one has alleged that technologies from either of the companies have been used for espionage.

Rather, the concerns are about the potential for misuse, not actual misuse. Also aggravating the situation are Chinese companies’ previous, actual problems with cybersecurity, which the companies say they have addressed.

Here are some recent developments related to the U.S. government ban and Chinese manufacturers in general:

Tariffs and trade concerns

Additional rounds of U.S. tariffs have targeted an expanding array of Chinese goods, including data storage and processing components such as printed circuit boards, as well as video camera lenses. The escalating trade war has kept generalised concerns about China and its trade practices in the public eye and fomented a level of uncertainty in many markets, including physical security.

The escalating trade war has kept generalised concerns about China and its trade practices in the public eye
Additional rounds of U.S. tariffs have targeted an expanding array of Chinese goods

Involvement of surveillance in Chinese human rights violations

Concerns have surfaced in a Congressional hearing recently about the Chinese government’s surveillance activities targeting the Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the Zinjiang Urghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Specific attention is being directed at the region’s surveillance system including “thousands of surveillance cameras, including in mosques,” and Hikvision and Dahua were mentioned in the Congressional hearing as profiting from security spending in the area.

Increased global media attention

The ban has not been widely publicised in the U.S. mainstream media, but the topic has attracted global attention. For example, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a 10-minute expose on the use of Chinese-made cameras in Australian government facilities, including “sensitive military facilities.”

The report, which mentioned the U.S. ban, noted that “Both [Hikvision and Dahua] have had security flaws be exposed leading to fears that some of the flaws were placed there to help the Chinese government spy.” The report continues: “China is trying to set itself up as the number-one country for cyber-espionage, and this is part of that platform.”

How will the USA ban on Chinese security affect critical infrastructure
How broadly should one interpret the inclusion of "critical infrastructure" mentioned in the bill?

Broader interpretation of the bill beyond the federal government

The language in the bill leaves a level of ambiguity in terms of the scope of its application, and the security marketplace as a whole has been struggling to understand its full impact. Does the ban only restrict an integrator’s use of Chinese technology on a specific government job, or does it eliminate an integrator who installs the technology (even in non-government projects) from consideration for government jobs?

How broadly should one interpret the inclusion of “critical infrastructure” mentioned in the bill, for example, non-governmental facilities? Will other governments and private entities assume they should ban Hikvision and Dahua in order to be compliant? For example, Suffolk, Virginia, has announced it will not to use Dahua or Hikvision cameras because the federal ban applies to “U.S. government-funded contracts and for critical infrastructure and national security usage.

The result of these developments is a kind of snowball effect, simultaneously drawing attention to the issues and adding new elements to an overall narrative. Taken together, these developments suggest the U.S. ban has set off a level of concern about Chinese companies that will have an industry-transforming impact in the months to come.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?
What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) make huge contributions to the economy overall. Considered individually, they may not be as large as companies in the enterprise market, but they have big requirements when it comes to security. SMBs also present unique challenges to security manufacturers and integrators seeking to serve their needs. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the security challenges of protecting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?

Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more
Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.

Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?
Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?

If you’re a security or facilities manager, you may already be aware of the quiet revolution that’s taking place across businesses and organisations up and down the country. By the end of 2020, 20% of all ID and access control systems featured mobile capability, and this is set to increase by a further 34% over the next three years. There’s no doubt that using a smartphone or mobile device in place of traditional credential and access control is a growing trend that’s only been sped up by the pandemic. It’s true that many businesses are still very much focused on remote working, although many are now starting to implement new-and-improved strategies that are better suited to protect the workforce moving forward. Mobile ID systems As the next normal becomes clearer, businesses will be reviewing procedures such as access control, occupancy monitoring, reducing touch points and tracking visitors. Mobile ID systems are ideally suited to this task. But what are the key reasons for considering such a setup in 2021? But why is this new technology so well-suited to future-proof your physical access system, and why is it becoming so popular? Eradicating outdated legacy credentials Have you seen just how vulnerable outdated Proximity card technology can be? Low-frequency 125kHz cards can be cloned in a matter of seconds with the use of cheap, readily available tools. Despite their weaknesses, they are still used by a huge majority of businesses – big and small. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential Replacing such a system with a mobile-enabled system is one of the best ways to increase security ten-fold. Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, mobile ID offers best-in-class security and cryptography. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential. Bluetooth Smart and NFC (Near Field Communication) make them the best product to operate such a credential via a secure app. If you’re looking for best-in-class security in 2021, mobile access is most definitely the way forward. Removing touch points across the business Reducing touch points and the adoption of touchless facilities has become a key priority for businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Even as businesses start to return to the office and operate a home/office split, it will be imperative that unnecessary contact is kept to an absolute minimum between staff. The traditional issuance of identification and access control credentials can pose problems in this regard. Facility and security managers who are responsible for onboarding and processing ID have done the process face to face. Mobile access makes it possible to carry this process out without people coming into direct content. First, the security manager has access to a secure portal, allowing them to create, manage and edit credentials anywhere. They can upload and remotely transfer mobile ID and access control credentials directly to users’ smartphones over the air. Via the secure app, users can view and see their credentials and immediately begin using it for ID and access control by simply placing their smartphone over card readers. Enabling a more flexible way of working The way in which we work has changed for good. Even as people more people return to the office in 2021, a majority of businesses will be operating a home/office split indefinitely. This once again reinforces the need for a smarter, more adaptable onboarding system. Implementing mobile ID is the perfect way of doing this: over-the-air delivery of credentials and security data is now a given, helping businesses create the perfect balance between the home and the office. No longer do people have to come into the office for the onboarding process. Increasing convenience and user experience More often businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security Ok, so mobile ID is the perfect way of increasing security and adapting workplaces to a post-COVID way of working. And we’ve not even touched on the most obvious advantage yet: Convenience. How many times have you forgotten your ID card? We’re sure it’s more times than you forget your smartphone. These powerful processors have become intertwined with the way we carry out tasks on a daily basis. They’re so vital that people will soon notice if they’ve forgotten it. From an employee’s perspective, mobile ID and access control is simple, convenient and extremely user-friendly. More and more businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security. From the employer’s perspective, mobile ID means it’s easier for administrators to manage access and credentials. Future-proofing access control now will ensure that in the longer term, mobile ID is well worth the investment. The annual expenditure of printing ID cards and purchasing credentials can be vast, while reissuance costs can also quickly add up for larger organisations. These issues are a thing of the past for businesses using mobile ID. Mobile ID perfect tool for 2021 and beyond Until mobile ID, new and improved credentials’ main focus was on increasing security. Mobile ID not only delivers that, but it also provides a more convenient way of accessing the office in a way that’s perfectly suited to returning to the office in 2021. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is the time. Summing up, mobile access is changing the way we access the office by: Eliminating weak links in security systems such as outdated legacy card technologies Eradicating the need for touch points across multiple areas of the workplace Enabling a smarter, more flexible approach to onboarding Increasing convenience – for both employers and employees.