On why the ban of Chinese products cannot be justified

On why the ban of Chinese products cannot be justified
The recent security concerns about Chinese products raised by the American government have left the industry divided in terms of opinion. Some say that, given the nature of their operation and the government’s control over them, Chinese security manufacturers should be approached with caution. We are not just talking about some of the large brands here, but such concerns could also extend to OEMs that make products for other companies.

While this may or may not be a legitimate concern, we cannot deny the fact that, given the pace at which Chinese companies have expanded in the recent times, there may be others trying to block their advance. But what do the professionals in the field who don’t support this move think?

“The concerns raised in industry publications and the broader media, I feel, are somewhat misguided,” said Luke Percy-Dove, Director of Matryx Consulting. “This is not to say that the risk of hacking or intrusion by way of a video surveillance camera is not possible, but the risk is not necessarily camera-related or limited to a specific manufacturer. An IP video surveillance camera is a network device just as a router, a network switch, a workstation, or a server is. As such, proper security practices should be implemented to maintain the integrity of the entire network. If appropriate security practices are followed for network security, the country of origin of the camera should be irrelevant.”

Similar thoughts were echoed by Ollencio D’Souza, MD of TechnologyCare. According to him, Chinese surveillance products are cost-effective and technologically up-to-date. They are no threat to the public or to businesses because they have options to allow “internet” based communications.

What could be the reasons behind the China ban?

D’Souza noted that the reasons are more “political” than technical. This becomes significant as we continue to see a trade war between countries now.

“I will leave it to all parties to understand that ‘innovation’ cannot be stopped – humans are made to innovate and improve,” he said. “Whether it is done by China or someone else – it will happen, and the same situations will arise of product ‘vulnerability’ to external interference. This is not the key issue when speaking about basic consumer technology such as surveillance cameras and should be either ignored or challenged.”

Percy-Dove pointed out that one of the concerns is that the Chinese government is a key stakeholder in one of the largest Chinese manufacturers of surveillance products. There seems to be a perception that the Chinese government is, therefore, able to log-in and watch what is going on via their security cameras. Nobody, he noted, has yet explained how that would actually occur.

“My first exposure to it was via articles from a US-based testing company of video surveillance products,” he said. “They were consistently highlighting the vulnerabilities associated with the major Chinese surveillance manufacturers. From the outset, it appeared that there was a pro-American element to the reporting which could be attributed to the USA/China trade war or simply just a preference for American brands. It appears to have grown from that.”

How will this ban affect systems integrators?

Speaking from an Australian market perspective, Percy-Dove suggested that until an independent or government body actually demonstrates that Chinese cameras pose a greater risk than products manufactured in other countries, there may not be any impact at all.

“And were that to occur, there are more than 4000 different types of video surveillance cameras available in Australia, meaning there is an abundance of choice,” he added. “I can’t see that there would be any impact on integrators other than having to purchase a different brand of camera.”

D’Souza is of the opinion that the ban is “destructive” to all industries especially because China has a number of OEMs for a lot of other manufacturers.

“The point is – what will the ban achieve?” he continued. “Data is gathered from everywhere – even using other branded cameras – so what is the difference? Vulnerability is a ‘network issue’ and even major organizations that spend millions on their cybersecurity have been hacked.”

D’Souza concluded that destroying an industry because of fears – mostly overinflated fear – when the issue is ‘poor network security’ leaves the whole world disadvantaged because costs will increase, and product choices will decrease. Innovation in functionality and technology will also reduce because there is no competition from China and the others may not see the need to innovate. They could be content with their current standard of functionality and technology.
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