Chinese data services company Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology is now being questioned with its database and its application called the Overseas Key Information Database or OKIDB. The company is owned by a government-backed military research company – China Electronics Technology Group (CETC). Wherein its CEO is a known supporter of hybrid and psychological warfare, which includes cyberwar. On the other hand, OKIDB is an application that can extract information from pool sources on the internet and can monitor in real-time of any change of activities listed individuals from their social media account.
Allegedly, the company is accused of possible espionage of holding information on its database about 2.4 million prominent individuals, including 50000 Americans. A few names have a vital position in the military organizations and government offices from people worldwide.
According to the gathered evidence, the database contains an individual’s information such as country of origin, current work and affiliations, and other pertinent details of the person like families and geo-addresses. The data presented allegedly said to be is in raw form or as generally known as public knowledge.
However, many cybersecurity experts have different views about this controversy. Some experts, after reviewing the reports, claimed that the information cannot be considered as a threat since the data are gathered from a public source of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and other information pool on the internet. Other factions said that holding such magnitude of data of prominent individuals on a single database may result in using it for possible malicious activity such as espionage, especially in this time of cyberwar and many news about China’s spying on other different countries of interest. Few experts that dig more in-depth on the evidence show that the presented data also contains other individuals’ information that is not publicly available, which arose further suspicions.
Facebook has already sent a Cease and Desist order to Zhenhua to stop its activity surrounding the platform.
LinkedIn and Twitter also released their official statement that they do not authorize nor have any affiliation with the data company. The action made by Zhenhua through OKIDB is against their policy and user agreement.
In response to the allegations, Zhenhua released an official statement that they are a private company. Information gathered on their database is for aspirational and for public information purposes only. They also deny holding millions of details on their database and firmly said they use the information for business and market strategies and not used for any malicious activity and worst for espionage. They highlighted that their work is not for the Chinese government as suspected of intelligence gathering. China’s Ministry of Defense is unresponsive to confirm nor deny the allegations and affiliations.