Chinese-only website Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co., linked to Beijing’s military and intelligence networks, reportedly holds information of thousands of Australians with a prominent profile.
According to reports, information of 35,000 Australians was leaked from the Shenzhen-based company, believed to be handled by the Chinese Communist Party. The company listed the People’s Liberation Army as its client, but reports circulating that CCP is using Zhenhua as an intelligence service.
Zhenhua’s database consists of detailed personal information of 2.4 million people across the world, mainly of China. The massive data leak is believed to be the start of hybrid warfare showcasing the scope of China’s intelligence and gathering operations.
Compromised data include personal names, political associations, dates of birth, addresses, marital status, social media IDs, and photographs. Additionally, the database collated social media accounts, news stories, criminal records, and corporate misdemeanors.
From Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Instagram, the database collects massive information. Much information was reportedly scraped from the open-source database, while some profiles still have information on confidential bank records, job applications, as well as psychological profiles.
Cybersecurity experts claim that most information was fished from the dark web. There are also reports saying that this database is a ‘Cambridge Analytica on steroids’, referring to an information trove from Facebook, back in the 2016 US election campaign period.
The Indian Express approached the Shenzhen-based company for comments, however, its website was reportedly pulled down soon after.
Upon investigation, many cybersecurity experts and companies claim that Zhenhua Data is engaged in what they call ‘relational database.’ It targets political figures, government, business, tech, media, and civil society.
Its main service is to monitor the subject’s digital footprint across all social media platforms and maintain an information library. This library consists of significant information, such as new articles, bidding documents, positions of recruitment, and others.
The relational aspects come in as Zhenhua builds a record of associations between different individuals, institutions, and other information. They collect these pieces of information, then provide threat intelligence services.
Out of the 35,000 Australians whose information is on the database, there are state and federal politicians, military officers, diplomats, and civil servants. Prime ministers, billionaires, and business figures are also included in the database.
Zhenhua reportedly leaked the database to a US academic based in Vietnam, Professor Chris Balding. He formerly worked at Peking University, before fleeing due to physical safety concerns.
Out of the 250,000 records recovered from the Zhenhua database, there are 52,000 Americans, 35,000 Australians, 10,000 Indians, 9,700 British, 5,000 Canadians, 2,100 Indonesians, 1,400 Malaysian, and 138 from Papua New Guinea.