Home News Zhenhua Data Leak: Is China Spying and Collecting Data on Indians?

Zhenhua Data Leak: Is China Spying and Collecting Data on Indians?

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Chinese firm Zhenhua Data Information Technology has been accused of collecting data on millions of people worldwide. The Chinese tech company has reported links with the country’s military and intelligence networks, and thus, this action could be an act of espionage, according to Internet 2.0, an Australia-based cybersecurity consultancy that discovered this hidden data trove. This dataset consists of the personal information of nearly 250,000 people worldwide, including 10,000 Indians that consists of prominent personalities like Narendra Modi, Ramnath Kovind, Ratan Tata, Sachin Tendulkar, etc.

 Key Highlights 

  • China-based Zhenhua Data Information Technology Ltd. has been accused of spying, collecting, and storing personal information of nearly 250,000 people worldwide including prominent and critically acclaimed people.
  • The majority of the discovered dataset contains the personal information of 52,000 Americans, 36,000 Australians, 10,000 each of Britain and India, and nearly 800 New Zealand nationals.
  • The Zhenhua data leak was first unearthed by American academic Christopher Balding who shared the findings with an Australian cybersecurity consultancy, Internet 2.0, for recovery and analysis.
  • The Government of India (GoI) has constituted an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study the reports, evaluate their implications, assess any violations of law, and submit its recommendations within 30 days.

Findings of the Zhenhua Data Leak

The researchers at Internet 2.0, received a copy of the database from American academic Christopher Balding. They further retrieved and assessed this database that was left unsecured on the Internet. The database called the Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB) consisted of useful personal and social media information of known personalities.

As per The Indian Express, “(The information library) includes content not just from news sources, forums, but also from papers, patents, bidding documents, even positions of recruitment.”

China’s Response

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, however, distanced the government’s involvement with the company in question. He said, “I noticed the company’s response that the report is seriously untrue. The company said clearly that it is a private company, and its clients are research institutions and business groups. Instead of collecting data, it only mobilizes data, which is open and available online.”

Zhenhua’s marketing and recruiting documents depict the company as a patriotic firm with the military as its primary target customer. Thus, experts say that it is hard to believe in the statement given out by the company in this regard.

India Looks into the Damages

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India has taken up the discussion of the Zhenhua data leak in the ongoing monsoon session of the parliament. The GoI is highly concerned about foreign entities collecting data of Indian nationals without their consent and made this very clear to the Chinese Ambassador to India by raising a voice against it.

The GoI has formed an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study the reports, evaluate their implications, assess any violations of law, and submit its recommendations within 30 days.

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