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Chinese-Brand Surveillance Cameras Widespread in Eastern Europe, Raising Security Concerns

An investigation by Radio Free Europe across nine countries revealed that Eastern European nations have purchased millions of Chinese-manufactured surveillance cameras over the past five years, despite security flaws, lax data management by the manufacturers, and manufacturer ties to the Chinese government.

The report found widespread use across EU and NATO member states or aspiring member states of cameras made by the partially state-owned companies Hikvision and Dahua. Cash-strapped European governments are increasingly opting for products from such low-cost, state-subsidized Chinese firms.

While most countries lack national databases of surveillance cameras, available data and RFE’s reporting showed that Hikvision and Dahua dominate the security camera markets in Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Georgia. Experts warn that these companies’ well-documented vulnerabilities make the cameras susceptible to hacking and foreign adversaries, and yet the cameras are in use at sensitive sites like Romanian military bases and Hungary’s counter-terror headquarters.

Such cameras are banned from use in the government by the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. As of now, Europe has not yet implemented similar restrictions. However, with a string of Chinese espionage scandals erupting during President Xi’s recent Europe tour and the EU cracking down on Chinese trade practices, the European foothold of these security camera manufacturing firms could become another flashpoint.

Use of such security devices in countries like Hungary and Serbia is likely to grow as those countries’ relationships with Beijing deepen, heightening concerns over privacy and national security risks from the Chinese-made technology.

Source: Voice of America, May 12, 2024