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Security & privacy

Is the Chinese government spying on you?

Surveillance cameras seem to be popping up everywhere these days. People use them to protect their homes. Police departments across the U.S. use them to spot crimes 24/7.

Even the U.S. military has used surveillance cameras to keep an eye on certain bases and embassies. But has the Chinese government found a way to use them against you?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fears that might actually be the case.

What is DHS worried about?

Officials with DHS are concerned about a specific surveillance camera manufacturer, Hikvision. It’s the number 2 seller of surveillance equipment in the U.S. and number 1 in Europe.

Its security cameras have been used by the Memphis Police Department as well as to monitor a U.S. military base in Missouri. The company’s cameras were even being used to keep an eye on things at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul until the contract was canceled last year.

The problem is, Hikvision is partially owned by the Chinese government. It currently owns 42 percent of the company. The Chinese government uses Hikvision cameras as part of its domestic-surveillance apparatus.

This is a cause for concern for some U.S. government officials. On top of that, DHS recently discovered a vulnerability in over 200 Hikvision camera models, impacting tens-of-millions of cameras around the globe.

The flaw would allow cybercriminals to hack into internet-connected cameras in only a few simple steps. The hackers could then use the cameras to spy on you.

Hikvision said that it worked with DHS to fix the problem and provided a firmware patch for all impacted cameras. However, U.S. officials are still worried about cameras manufactured by the company, which led to its removal from a list of automatically approved suppliers by the General Services Administration.

Some U.S. security vendors even refuse to carry cameras manufactured by Hikvision. That’s because they are concerned the cameras could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans.

Another problem facing Americans is you might not even know if you’re using a camera that came from Hikvision. Many of its cameras are sold without the Hikvision label and are later rebranded by U.S. distributors.

At this point, there’s no proof that China is using these cameras to spy on Americans. Hopefully, it’s just DHS being extra careful. To be safe, it’s a good idea to make sure your internet-connected devices, including cameras, have the latest firmware updates. That’s because whenever a flaw is discovered like the one DHS found, the manufacturer will send a patch through a firmware update.

Speaking of being spied on, here are 10 types of spy cameras that could be watching you now

Spy cams are hidden all around you and you’d never know it. You won’t believe how cleverly hidden the cameras are. Some even look like soap!

Click here to see 10 spy cams in places you’d never guess.

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