A company linked to Chinese military and intelligence organizations obtained data from tens of thousands of Australians, revealed a significant data leak. Those targeted include celebrities, journalists and even Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Globally, around 2.4 million people have been traced.
Experts have labeled the move as a “psychological warfare” tactic to influence public opinion in Australia.
The Chinese company behind the compilation of the files, Zhenhua Data, is believed to have links to China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security.
The server also worked for the Chinese Communist Party and the People̵
The information included in the disclosure shows that the server has compiled “open-source” details such as dates of birth, addresses, marital status and photographs.
A database review described how the information obtained came from “well-known platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and others”.
The report added: “In addition to personal information, they logged information about posts, likes and retweets.
“This allowed for a wide variety of relationships and key person targeting.”
But experts noted that up to 20% of the information could not be obtained via open source, meaning it could have been gathered from the dark web or via hacking.
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Tory Congressman Tom Tugendhat, whose family was also consulted, has already sounded the alarm that he could be tracked by Chinese intelligence.
He said the data leak marked a “major shift” in the country’s tactics.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Tugendhat said: “This is further indication that their interest in British politics has gone beyond general and specific.
“What is clear is that the Chinese government is trying to get more and more involved in overseas politics.
“Many of us know, through crude direct targeting, that attempts to influence the UK went 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 ‘ broader information – collection of effort.