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700 Taiwanese surveillance cameras with Chinese Huawei chips leak video online

HiSilicon's Hi3516 surveillance camera chip found to be culprit in many cases

Screenshots of video camera feeds from Taiwan that can be seen live on Insecam. 

Screenshots of video camera feeds from Taiwan that can be seen live on Insecam.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Some 700 private Taiwanese surveillance cameras containing chips made in China by a subsidiary of Huawei are currently visible online due to security vulnerabilities.

Recently, Taiwanese have begun to notice that footage from their private surveillance cameras is readily accessible to the public through websites such as Insecam, where Taiwan is ranked third in the world in terms of the number of cameras viewable on the site with 700, trailing only Japan at 956 and the U.S. at 2,172. Examples of private spaces in Taiwan currently visible to the world include postpartum care homes, clinics, doorways, living rooms, and bedrooms.

One victim, an owner of a steam bun shop in Taipei City's Datong District said that when she saw footage of her store on the website, she was more frightened than surprised and said that she had never thought that video of her work would be made public. She added that the notion of people spying on her as she worked made her feel really uncomfortable.

Based on information posted about the cameras on the website, the commonality in many cases is that the devices contain HiSilicon's Hi3516 semiconductors. HiSilicon is a fabless semiconductor company based in Shenzhen, Guangdong, and is fully owned by Huawei.

Cha Shih-chao (查士潮), an information security expert, was cited by the news site as saying that "some network cameras made in China in the early days indeed do not have very good security." Cha said that these Chinese-made cameras appeal to consumers because they are cheap, easy to buy, simple to operate, and quick to set up.

Amid frequent reports of information security leaks, the Criminal Investigation Bureau has stated that in October alone, it received 55 reports of video footage that hackers had stolen from surveillance cameras, as well as from TVs and computers.

Legal expert Li Yu-sheng (李育昇) told the news agency that, "Peeping on or hacking into other people's non-public activities constitutes Offenses Against Privacy (妨害祕密罪)." If the content in the video consists of personal data from others, this could also represent a violation of the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法). Victims could also file suit and seek compensation under Taiwan's Civil Code.

However, because websites such as Insecam are based overseas, it is difficult to enforce the law and seek compensation. Li recommends consumers buy cameras that are certified for their safety and quality in Taiwan. Security experts also recommend camera users regularly change all the passwords used for their surveillance camera systems.