Why most councils, educational institutions and NHS trusts use of CCTV is putting them at risk

Oct 10, 2022 | Commercial Security

Why most councils, educational institutions and NHS trusts use of CCTV is putting them at risk

Earlier this year, a cross-party group of 70 MPs called for the UK government to ban the sale and operation of popular Chinese CCTV manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua. But why was this, how widespread is the issue, and what does it mean for 61% of UK Public Bodies? Let’s explore. 

A threat to global security 

Hikvision and Dahua CCTV Equipment ImageWith a reputation for producing advanced technology at affordable prices, importing goods from China is a widespread practice within the UK and across the globe. The commercial security market has not been exempt from this, with the production of high-quality and affordable AI-equipped CCTV. However, with this, we have seen the widespread introduction of technology capable of facial detection, gender recognition and even behavioural analysis, such as identifying an intruder. 

On the face of it, this technology can significantly enhance the commercial security sector, providing businesses with the capability to embed enhanced surveillance across their premises. However, the bigger question comes when considering who has access to this technology and their data, particularly when Hikvision and Dahua are Chinese state-owned corporations. A recent Italian investigation found that Hikvision cameras continued attempting to connect to external servers based in China. In particular, each of the 140 cameras installed in the Fiumicino airport in Rome sent over 11,000 requests to an external connection every hour, equating to a total of 1.5 million requests. 

Due to the widespread introduction of cloud storage and WiFI-enabled technologies, it’s more important than ever for companies to be informed about the technology they are purchasing and its full capabilities. 

Purchasing from an ethical supplier 

It’s not just about the security risk but also the less-widely reported unethical behaviour of these companies that has resulted in the US Regulators banning their products, causing UK MPs to call to follow suit. 

Over recent years, Hikvision and Dahua have been awarded over £990m contracts to supply surveillance systems equipped with ethnicity profiling tools to China’s Xinjiang province. This includes installing their technology across concentration camps in Xinjiang, where an estimated one million Uyghur Muslims have been detained and subject to abuse, torture and forced sterilisation. 

In a statement from MPs calling for the ban on the sale and use of Hikvision and Dahua technologies, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti said:

“UK taxpayers should not be paying for human rights abusing Chinese tech, let alone doing so on such an extraordinary scale. We mustn’t support abuses over there.”

Today, in a post-pandemic world, ideologies and expectations of corporations have shifted, with an expectation that all businesses and public sector bodies should be embedding corporate responsibility at their core. This is just about the behaviour of staff but also the partners and suppliers they choose to engage with. Therefore, in light of recent revelations about the nature of Hikvision and Dahua’s connection to the infringement of human rights, all organisation must review their continued use of this equipment.  

The widespread use of imported technology 

Due to their high quality and innovative technology, combined with their affordable price, Hickvision has become a market leader in the commercial security industry across the world. 

In particular, it’s claimed that there are at least 1 million Hickvision cameras installed across the UK.  

Whatsmore, according to independent research by Big Brother’s Watch, this technology has been installed in over 61% of public bodies in the UK, including: 

  • 73% of councils across the UK 
  • 57% of secondary schools in England 
  • 6 out 10 NHS trusts 
  • Plus various universities and police departments. 

Additionally, their equipment is reportedly installed in various branches of Tesco, Starbucks, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and Pets Corner. Unfortunately, the use of this technology is likely to be even more widespread than has been reported, as Hickvsion also licenses its technology to multiple brands, including Honeywell and Toshiba. 

What’s next? 

As pressure continues from MPs to ban the sale and use of Hikvision and Dahua technology, as well as advice from the Ministry of Defense against the installation of the equipment, companies will likely be required to replace this equipment in the near future. 

With that in mind, it may be worth considering whether your organisation is at risk and proactively budgeting for its replacement. Secondly, we strongly urge all organisations to consider the security and ethical impact of their purchasing decisions, particularly when protecting your people and your property. 

Here at JKE Fire and Security, we have diligently researched and tested the different security technology available to find our clients the most reliable, trustworthy and affordable options so that you can trust that your commercial security is safe with us.  

We also have a gold partnership with security technology manufacturers Hanwha Techwin Europe, part of the Samsung group, to offer our clients access to flexible and intuitive technology, which comes with a 5-year warranty. 

If you are unsure whether your current solution is secure or fit for purpose, or you’re considering replacing your equipment, we’re here to help. We offer a free audit complete with equipment recommendations tailored to your exact needs, followed by installation by our expertly-trained engineers and 24/7 support.