Matt Pottinger, the Deputy National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, recently revealed that Beijing is building a database of millions of foreigners through a digital surveillance campaign by setting up digital dossiers. The communist regime plans to use the database to intimidate, influence, and blackmail foreign nationals to do their bidding.
Pottinger noted that no regime has the ability to influence the perception and priorities of foreign populations more than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He was giving a speech to Policy Exchange, a think-tank from London, when he made the revelation. Pottinger’s comments follow a recent exposé in which China-based Zhenhua was found to be collecting the personal information of millions of people worldwide through setting up digital dossiers.
The security advisor pointed out that there are big Chinese tech firms carrying out the digital surveillance campaign on foreigners and that Zhenhua was only a minor actor. Zhenhua was found to have collected profiles of over 2.4 million people globally. The database listed the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as the main clients. It also mentions manipulating reality through social media and waging a hybrid warfare to bring about a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
According to Pottinger, the Zhenhua database is a clear sign that the CCP is looking to combine Leninist techniques with new-age digital surveillance tools. Such a collection of personal dossiers is a feature of Leninist regimes. He warns that the smartphones that we use to chat, do our banking, browse the Internet, etc., serve to telegraph our thoughts and actions to “cyber spooks.” Not only is personal data at risk but also America’s intellectual property and official documents.
Zhenhua is said to have collected over 50,000 profiles from the U.S. with some of the victims having a military background. “We know the Chinese Communist Party seeks to promote bulk data collection now, with the intent that the ability to process and use it will follow in the future… This data set proves that they’re targeting individuals and that social media is an important tool,” Samantha Hoffman, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Cyber Center, said to The Washington Post.
Pottinger says the Trump administration’s foreign policy is being centered on “reciprocity and candor.” He defines reciprocity as injuring the interests of a nation in retaliation for them injuring your interests. Candor is the belief that democracies remain safe only when nations talk to their adversaries, friends, and themselves honestly and publicly.
The rising risk of being subjected to Chinese surveillance is making many nations wary about Chinese tech, with the biggest casualty being Huawei. Several countries including the U.S., Australia, Bulgaria, the UK, Italy, and so on, have announced that they will not allow Huawei to set up 5G networks in their countries.
Blocking Chinese data theft
Recently, the U.S. administration has taken strict actions against Chinese hackers so as to protect the data of its citizens and companies. In September, the government charged five Chinese nationals for hacking into 100 companies and agencies to steal information and extort the victims. The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael R. Sherwin, noted that some of the criminals viewed their ties with China as providing a license to steal from foreign nations.
In October, the NSA released information on 25 security vulnerabilities that were being used by Chinese hackers for cyber espionage. The hackers targeted military, political, and economic information. Solutions to patch these vulnerabilities have already been identified, thanks to which companies can quickly resolve their security issues and protect themselves from Chinese hackers.