Australian lawmakers confirmed a nationwide campaign was underway to remove China-made cameras from their constituency offices over fears they contain spyware.
In a Senate estimates hearing on Feb. 14, Department of Finance officials said there were 65 offices that have Chinese-manufactured Hikvision and Dahua security cameras installed, with 45 offices yet to have the cameras removed.
Sixty-five of the federal MPS have been fitted with closed-circuit television systems (CCTV), while as many as 88 have both security cameras and intercom systems, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Officials from the Department also confirmed that the department sent letters to affected MPs last July alerting them of plans to upgrade their security systems. However, they did not reveal whether the MPs were aware of the Chinese-made surveillance equipment installed in their offices.
Twenty CCTV systems have been removed so far, and the government plans to replace all the equipment by April. However, the dismantling of the intercom system is still in the exploratory phase.
Mary Wiley-Smith, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Finance, said the department never received a recommendation to remove the systems. On the contrary, the Hikvision and Dahua equipment was no longer on its approved list.
Defence Minister: Government Taking ActionDeputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles ordered on Feb. 9 the Defence department to remove all cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua.
“It’s important that these cameras be removed,” he told Sydney radio 2GB. “Within Defence, all the cameras that were registered to this company that we’re aware of have been removed.
“In addition to that, I’ve also asked Defence to go through and do another audit so that we can be completely clear about this.”
The Defence Minister said the surveillance systems were not spy cameras and that lots of technology were imported from overseas.
Defence deputy secretary for security and estate Celia Perkins said the department became aware of the issue in 2018, with advice from the intelligence community suggesting they “proceed with caution” with some systems in use.
“Following some updating advice and guidance in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and media reporting on that late last year, we undertook a refresh of our review,” Perkins told a Senate estimates hearing on Feb 15.
“We identified 41 systems on 17 sites, about half of those had been decommissioned.”