Security researching in the middle of the night.
Focusing on ARM based embedded IoT

Unauthenticated Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerability in Hikvision IP camera/NVR firmware (CVE-2021-36260)

This article has been written for a technical audience.

Vulnerability discovered 20 June 2021

Table of Contents:

Risk Assessment
Vulnerability details
Proof of Concept video on a real target
A few stills from the real attack POC video
Recommendations made to Hikvision
Is this a Chinese Government mandated backdoor?
Affected Firmware Types
Affected Model List


The majority of the recent camera product ranges of Hikvision cameras are susceptible to a critical remote unauthenticated code execution vulnerability even with latest firmware (as of 21 June 2021). Some older models are affected also as far back as at least 2016. Some NVRs are also affected, though this is less widespread.

This is being tracked as CVE-2021-36260

Hikvision’s security advisory: security-notification-command-injection-vulnerability-in-some-hikvision-products

This permits an attacker to gain full control of device with an unrestricted root shell, which is far more access than even the owner of the device has as they are restricted to a limited “protected shell” (psh) which filters input to a predefined set of limited, mostly informational commands.

In addition to complete compromise of the IP camera, internal networks can then be accessed and attacked.

This is the highest level of critical vulnerability – a zero click unauthenticated remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability affecting a high number of Hikvision cameras. Connected internal networks at risk

Given the deployment of these cameras at sensitive sites potentially even critical infrastructure is at risk.

A list of affected firmware types can be found at the end of this document.

Firmware from as long ago as 2016 has been tested and found to be vulnerable.

Only access to the http(s) server port (typically 80/443) is needed. No username or password needed nor any actions need to be initiated by camera owner. It will not be detectable by any logging on the camera itself.

This vulnerability was reported to Hikvision the day after discovery, on 21 June 2021. I wrote a full report to them identifying the problem code, the device types affected, POC and recommendations for resolution.

At the time of writing, patched firmware is partially available though inconsistently deployed across various Hikvision firmware portals.

Risk Assessment


  • Remotely Exploitable: Yes
  • Authentication Required: None
  • Zero click (no action needed from device owner): Yes
  • Render device inoperable: Yes
  • Read customer data: Yes
  • Change customer data: Yes
  • Latest firmware vulnerable: Yes (as of 21 June 2021)
  • Latest products vulnerable: Yes
  • Denial of Service vulnerability: Yes
  • Potentially enable physical attack on site: Yes
  • Attack internal network: Yes

The is the most serious form of vulnerability for this device type.

Vulnerability details

Not for public release in order to protect companies/end users.

Proof of Concept (POC) example

Hikvision HSRC (Hikvision Security Response Center) requested POC of the vulnerability when I first reported it to them, and I replied with working code within 2 hours or so.

As it’s not responsible to disclose a POC, I instead decided to make a video showing it in action, though I have subsequently agreed with Hikvision not to release it.

Rather than just use my own equipment as a target, which could seem contrived, I enlisted the aid of a friend from the forum, @alistairstevenson, who kindly put up a real live camera with permission to exploit. I wasn’t told the access credentials but during the attack it was clear it’s running 2021 firmware and camera was manufactured January 2021.

The video showed a real world example of me attacking this target, obtaining information that should be only available to the owner, obtaining a root shell accessible via SSH (even though SSH disabled in the web interface), and ultimately bypassing the camera admin web portal authentication.

A few stills from the real target POC video

I don’t know the root/admin password.

We get device information we shouldn’t be able to get, the contents of /etc/passwd (the admin account password is always the same as the camera web portal admin password) and add our own system root account:

Get device information, /etc/passwd, add a root account and spawn dropbear (SSH server) on a port of our choice:

That account is using the restricted informational shell Hikvision limits the camera owner to, so we add a root account with /bin/sh shell, login via SSH:

Bypass restricted shell for full root shell

Disable web authentication and login to target camera admin web pages with any password. In reality we already have a far more important root shell but I wanted to demonstrate web page login is trivial at this point:

Web Interface authentication bypassed

With a root shell, a real attacker could have easily taken a large range of hostile actions at this point.

Recommendations made to Hikvision

I made a number of recommendations in my report to HSRC.

I identified the flawed code that was the problem, and indicated how I thought it best to remedy it.

I don’t have access to their code base repositories, but rather needed to decrypt firmware, and reverse engineer code yet I still found it.

Issue new firmware as soon as possible and issue a public security advisory.


Received patched IPC_G3 (V5.5.800 build 210628) and IPC H5 (V5.5.800 build 210628) firmware from HSRC for testing.

Decrypted and reversed the code in addition to live testing on my own equipment and confirmed to HSRC that the patched firmware resolves the vulnerability.

Was further pleased to note this problem was fixed in the way I recommended.

Is this a Chinese Government mandated backdoor?

No, definitely NOT. You wouldn’t do it like this. And not all firmware types are affected.

28 September 2021 update: expanded answer provided here


I’m a security researcher who used to look after servers, networks and 1000s of people’s data in a former life, and the last few months knowing this exists on such a large scale has been worrying.

Still I needed to wait 90 days after reporting before making any responsible public disclosure, whilst providing assistance to them and encouraging patched firmware to be developed, tested, published and a public security advisory issued.

I’d recommend you do not expose any IoT device to the Internet no matter who it is made by - or in which country the device is made (including USA, Europe etc). Use a VPN for access if needed. Block outbound traffic too if at all possible - I also like to give these devices the wrong gateway (router) IP.

You can find me at, or

Watchful IP


Thank you to the members of who agreed a security research testing scope with me and provided access to some camera types I didn’t own. In particular:

  • @alistairstevenson
  • @iTuneDVR
  • @Securame
  • @rawinek
  • @cyrusbyte

Thank you to Hikvision - particularly the Head of HSRC, his team and R&D for working hard to fix this quickly. I sent them lots of emails and reports which they kindly liaised with me on.

Affected Firmware Types


I do not have the ability to decrypt all firmware types, nor access to all versions so am unable to check all firmware.

Usually firmware types use the prefix IPC (IP Camera = not PTZ) or IPD (IP Dome = PTZ camera). Date code is in the form YYMMDD.

OEM firmware is not listed - there’s too many to try to obtain and check.

At time of writing updated firmware seems to be properly deployed on the Hikvision China region firmware portal for Chinese region devices, but only partially on the Global site. On the European and Russian sites even much of the updated firmware from the incomplete Global site is missing. Other regional portals are also likely unreliable.

Some NVRs are also affected, though they were not within the original scope of this report. Please refer to Hikvision’s advisory for more information.

Vulnerable IP Camera Firmware

Type Most recent vulnerable Firmware Version
IPC_E0 IPC_E0_CN_STD_5.4.6_180112
IPC_E1 unknown
IPC_E2 IPC_E2_EN_STD_5.5.52_180620
IPC_E4 unknown
IPC_E6 IPCK_E6_EN_STD_5.5.100_200226
IPC_E7 IPCK_E7_EN_STD_5.5.120_200604
IPC_G3 IPC_G3_EN_STD_5.5.160_210416
IPC_G5 IPC_G5_EN_STD_5.5.113_210317
IPC_H1 IPC_H1_EN_STD_5.4.61_181204
IPC_H5 IPCP_H5_EN_STD_5.5.85_201120
IPC_H8 Factory installed firmware mid 2021
IPC_R2 IPC_R2_EN_STD_V5.4.81_180203

Some of these are from 2018, but they were the most up to date firmware available at time of report.

Vulnerable PTZ Camera Firmware

Type Most recent vulnerable Firmware Version
IPD_E7 IPDEX_E7_EN_STD_5.6.30_210526
IPD_G3 IPDES_G3_EN_STD_5.5.42_210106
IPD_H5 IPD_H5_EN_STD_5.5.41_200911
IPD_H7 IPD_H7_EN_STD_5.5.40_200721
IPD_H8 IPD_H8_EN_STD_5.7.1_210619

Vulnerable Legacy Firmware

Proven to be vulnerable - though newer firmware has existed for some time which doesn’t have the vulnerability.

Type Vulnerable Firmware Version
IPC_R7 Up to 5.4.x
IPD_R7 Up to 5.4.x
IPC_G0 Up to 5.4.x
IPC_H3 Up to 5.4.x
IPD_H3 Up to 5.4.x

Perhaps others too - these are just ones I stumbled across and I wasn’t really looking for legacy issues. There’s lots of cameras with old vulnerable firmware accessible on the Internet according to shodan however.

Affected Model List

Coming up with a proper affected model list is hard:

  • Chinese region variants have often have their own model names
  • Some firmware does not have public release notes that list the compatible models
  • There’s a huge number of OEM resellers with their own model numbers

For this reason I think it better to simply include the list Hikvision have published in their security advisory:

Affected Models 1 Affected Models 2 Affected Models 3


Vulnerability discovered: Sunday 20 June 2021

Manufacturer notified of issue: Monday 21 June 2021 16:16 to and Unfortunately HSRC didn’t receive this due to it being caught by a spam filter.

Wednesday 23 June 2021 01:00 Follow up email to and, additionally sent pdf copy of email via vulnerability submission form at

Wednesday 23 June 2021 04:27 received reply from requesting report on my findings.

Wednesday 23 June 2021 05:40 v1.0.0 of vulnerability details (WIP-2021-06-HIK-2) emailled to

Wednesday 23 June 2021 07:42 HSRC confirm they have reproduced the issue.

Wednesday 07 July 2021 Request for disclosure timeline and CVE details in the next 7 days.

Sunday 12 July 2021 HSRC inform me of the CVE ID they have applied for (CVE-2021-36260)

Wednesday 04 August 2021 notify HSRC of my intention to make limited public disclosure 90 days after my initial report 20 September 2021. I insist companies/end-users know there is risk and they need to update devices.

Tuesday 17 August 2021 HSRC send patched IPC_G3 (built 28 June 2021) and IPC_H5 (built 28 June 2021) for testing

Wednesday 18 August 2021 informed HSRC testing on patched firmware complete – urge them to release firmware as soon as possible on all firmware portals.

Saturday 18 September 2021 Hikvision and I publish our respective advisory/report