Thursday, September 24, 2020

Report: Chinese Company Harvests Data of Prominent Americans and Military for Intelligence Purposes

A recent report from the Washington Post claims that a Chinese data firm has been collecting the “digital crumbs” of data of prominent Americans and military members for some time. The company gathered data on 2 million people including 50,000 Americans with the “stated purpose of providing intelligence to Chinese military, government and commercial clients.”

The Washington Postreports that a Chinese company named Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology has been collecting the private information of prominent American citizens and military figures for the purpose of providing intelligence to the Chines military. This was discovered by an Australian cybersecurity consultancy firm that found a copy of the Chinese database left unsecured on the internet. The data appears to combine many sources together into one complete record on each individual, which the database claims will be used to provide “intelligence to Chinese military, government and commercial clients.”

The Washington Post writes:

Biographies and service records of aircraft carrier captains and up-and-coming officers in the U.S. Navy. Real-time tweets originating from overseas U.S. military installations. Profiles and family maps of foreign leaders, including their relatives and children. Records of social media chatter among China watchers in Washington.

Those digital crumbs, along with millions of other scraps of social media and online data, have been systematically collected since 2017 by a small Chinese company called Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology for the stated purpose of providing intelligence to Chinese military, government and commercial clients, according to a copy of the database that was left unsecured on the Internet and retrieved by an Australian cybersecurity consultancy.

The cache, called the Overseas Key Information Database, or OKIDB, purports to offer insights into foreign political, military and business figures, details about countries’ infrastructure and military deployments, and public opinion analysis. The database contains information on more than 2 million people, including at least 50,000 Americans and tens of thousands of people who hold prominent public positions, according to Zhenhua’s marketing documents and a review of a portion of the database.

One cybersecurity contractor for the U.S. government who has reviewed the data commented on the value of the database to the Post stating: “There might be gold in there, but this is not something that’s useful enough for military or intelligence targeting.”

Robert Potter, the founder of the Australian-based Internet 2.0 cybersecurity company, and Christopher Balding, an independent researcher, provided multiple news organizations with an incomplete copy of the database that feeds into the OKIDB software. Blading commented: “Open liberal democracies must consider how best to deal with the very real threats presented by Chinese monitoring of foreign individuals and institutions outside established legal limits.”

Read the full report at the Washington Post here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address

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