Personal information of 35,000 Australians found in mass Chinese data leak

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 16, 2020

The list of figures in the United Kingdom that were swept up in the Chinese dragnet includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, and members of the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"Many of us know, through direct targeting in a crude way, that attempts to influence the "UK have gone beyond what was normal a few years ago, and this seems to indicate that private companies in China are being used as part of a wider information-gathering effort". According to a report by The Guardian, a cybersecurity consultancy has reported that the data of about 250,000 people could be recovered from the leaked dataset.

Academics working on Artificial Intelligence, software, and computer technology at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Durham, and Imperial College London were listed in the database as well. The report estimated that some 2 million people worldwide were caught up in the Chinese surveillance scheme.

Scraping information from the web and social media platforms, tracking research papers, articles, patents, recruitment positions, Zhenhua's monitoring services map what it calls person information and relationship mining - networks among individuals, institutions and organisations, and changes in their leadership positions based on information from multiple sources.

Another section within the database includes hundreds of thousands of posts on social media that have key-words referencing the military and British politics, in order to craft a complex understanding of the political and security landscape in the United Kingdom.

Zhenhua is known to be a registered company in China with the Chinese government and military its clients registered in April 2018 and it has 20 processing centres across countries and regions.

Former Labor MP Emma Husar was also included on the list.

They say it is also possible for China even in individualised meetings be able to craft messaging or target the individuals they deem necessary to target.

"It does this to find human vulnerabilities to exploit".

Researchers found that, once the company had created a "profile" from the data, including a photo taken from public sites the targets maintained accounts on such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, it was stored on publicly available Chinese servers with links for each individual.

The source, however, did not answer specific queries if the Chinese government and the military were clients of Zhenhua Data as claimed by the company, or to what objective the Chinese government used the OKIDB data, if it did.

The sensational revelation has come amid the the ongoing standoff between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

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