Politicians’ families ‘targeted by China spies’

Politicians’ families ‘targeted by China spies’, by Sharri Markson.

The families of Australian politicians have been the target of open-source surveillance by a Chinese company that claims to have done work on behalf of Beijing’s intelligence agencies, cybersecurity experts claim.

The children or spouses of Scott Morrison, US Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos, his predecessor Joe Hockey and Parliament intelligence committee chairman Andrew Hastie have all been the subject of intelligence assessments, according to a database leak from a Chinese company.


Chinese spies have been collecting info on Andrew Hastie’s kids. Why?


The leaked database from Shenzhen Zhenhua Data indicates it has been conducting open source intelligence collection and forming assessments of people of note in targeted fields all around the world. …

More than 50,000 Americans and 35,000 Australians are included in the database

“I would suggest that every person who has a profile in this database has probably been the victim of a pretty extensive breach of their privacy, not just in terms of the level of scraping that has occurred form the open source, collating that into a profile rendered in another country, taken from platforms where they didn’t really consent to this information being shared in that way,” [said Fulbright University academic Chris Balding].

Why we should be worried by China’s Overseas Key Individual Database, by Amanda Stoker.

Knowing that the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence agencies are using a combination of complex bots, advanced big data tools, hacking and other methods to conduct mass digital surveillance of non-Chinese people located outside of the Chinese mainland, changes everything.

The kinds of people they are spying on should also shock:  it’s not just politicians and senior academics, for instance.  There’s maintenance men, cleaners and students with no previous connection by birth, marriage or business to China.

Chinese surveillance and credit scores at home:

In the gradual implementation of the social credit system, in which Chinese citizens are watched using CCTV equipped with facial recognition technology, and their purchases and online life measured to determine whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ citizens, the CCP is attempting to pre-emptively shape social and political behaviour in line with what they value.

But the CCP’s values do not match ours. …

At particular risk are the people who do things that are not illegal but of which the CCP doesn’t approve, such as going to church, reading news from an overseas website or having critical views of CCP leaders. Those who telephone such a person will get a recorded message saying the person they are calling is dishonest before that call is connected. …

Now coming to our countries from the CCP:

Knowing that the OKIDB turns the tactics of big data collection and analysis against those outside China is chilling.  It says that China’s ambitions do not lie simply in strengthening its domestic hold on power.  It has designs on the rest of the world, too. …

It means thinking twice before speaking critically of the CCP and its actions, or accepting that visits to the Chinese mainland or transiting in Hong Kong are off-limits for the foreseeable future. When the OKIDB tells us ordinary Australians are being watched and documented, nothing less would be sensible. …

Why cleaners? Children?

It tells us that the Chinese are prepared to use incentives or blackmail to achieve their aims.  The janitor of a university has the capacity to leave a door unlocked to give access to an operative who wants it.  The cleaner at a defence contractor can slip a USB into a PC without being noticed.

Data hacked or scraped by bots from the internet about an undisclosed past criminal conviction or a child who has personal struggles can be all the pressure that’s needed to extract compliance.

A big difference with the Cold War:

At the time of the cold war, the US and its allies vastly exceeded the USSR bloc in population, technology and per-capita GDP.

Today, China has around two-and-a-half times the population of the US and its allies. They’ve studied internationally, worked and stolen to close the technology gap.

Times have changed. At this stage it appears very unlikely that the West will improve its relationship with China while Xi is in charge.