So you have to admit this is a little creepy.
For close to a decade, the U.S. military has been buying and installing security cameras and other equipment sold by a company called Aventura Technologies, thinking it was all solidly “Made in the U.S.A.” After all, that’s what the boxes said, complete with stars and stripes design.
The equipment was installed on aircraft carriers, and in various government agencies, including a Department of Energy facility.
Nobody was the wiser — until a year ago, when a service member on an Air Force base noticed the display on an Aventura body camera had Chinese characters on it.
Yeah, that might set off some alarm bells.
According to the New York Times, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said that the equipment had actually been made in China and was vulnerable to hacking, raising the possibility that American government agencies had installed software in their security networks that could be used for spying by China.
Criminal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and illegal importation have been filed against the New York-based company, and seven of its current and former employees.
Aventura’s biggest customers were government agencies, including the Army, Navy and Air Force. Since 2010, the company has generated almost $90 million in sales.
The scary thing is, the equipment is only NOW being removed from use.
Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, declined to say whether the case had any link to the Chinese government or whether anyone in China had hacked into Aventura’s equipment.
Security officials in the U.S. have long been warning about the possibility of Chinese telecommunications equipment being used for spying. According to the Justice Department, over 80 percent of economic espionage cases in the U.S. since 2012 have involved China.
President Trump has been banging the drum about China since the start of his presidential campaign, and earlier this year, moved to prohibit American firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a national security risk.
Per Popular Mechanics, The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), banned the Pentagon from using cameras supplied by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology. Hytera Communications Corporation, which makes handheld radios, is also banned. The two companies make a variety of popular, low-cost surveillance cameras, that are even available on Amazon. The 2019 NDAA also banned network hardware sold by Chinese telecom giants ZTE and Huawei.
Putting the Aventura equipment aside, there are still around 3,500 pieces of equipment from the banned companies in use.
Security professionals have detected software backdoors on both Hikvision and Dahua cameras which could potentially allow hackers to spy, or install bugs or viruses. The companies have supposedly issued updates to fix the backdoor bugs, but there are still unpatched cameras out there presenting a serious security risk. Oh and by the way — surprise, surprise —both companies have ties to the Chinese military.
Not sure which is more disturbing…that the U.S. military could be duped into buying Chinese technology because the box said “Made in the U.S.A” or that it knowingly purchased Chinese technology with security risks.