It’s hardly a secret that China is extremely protective of the welfare of its state. In a recent controversy though, citizens of China and other countries alike could see just how this move could backfire on the East Asian sleeping giant.
A total of over 360 million conversations were leaked earlier this week, appearing to be collected from regular conversations among China’s citizens on various instant messaging apps such as Chinese-owned WeChat and QQ. Unfortunately for the Chinese government, a security researcher named Victor Gevers revealed that conversations were accidentally exposed to the general public and were out on the internet for anyone to see.
“There is no evidence that law enforcement is doing something active with this spoonfed data. But the infrastructure and well-planned data distribution are there,” Gevers says in an interview with The Verge. “There were chats from teenagers. Direct messages that were supposed to be private.”
Gevers adds, “I threw a few into Google Translate and shared those to Twitter. But we stopped there — I don’t think Chinese people will appreciate it if we start digging more into their conversations.”
And people definitely don’t appreciate this kind of surveillance, especially when that kind and level of data is used haphazardly. The conversations are said to contain personally identifying information such as photos, addresses, citizen ID numbers, GPS location data, device info, and even the user’s IP address. If that isn’t bad enough, this is also sent to 17 remote servers, in addition to the main database.
Worst of all, China has absolutely no encryption to protect these messages. As put by Gevers in an earlier interview with Bleeping Computer, “There is no security. It looks like they have no clue what they are doing.”