Computer Hackers Claim to Have Data of 1 Billion Chinese

By | January 12, 2024

Computer hackers say they stole information on about 1 billion Chinese people from a Shanghai police database. If true, it would be one of the largest hacking incidents in history.

News agencies report that an internet user going by the name of “ChinaDan” placed a message on Breach Forums last week. The hacker offered about 24 terabytes of data for 10 bitcoins, equal to about $200,000.

The message said the Shanghai National Police database was leaked in 2022. It even included information on children born as recently as 2020.

The hacker said the information had names, information about legal cases, addresses, birthplaces and national identification numbers of billions of people.

The Associated Press said it saw some of the information but could not confirm it was real. Shanghai police did not comment.

Some Chinese social media sites had discussions about the data leak when the story was reported. But, censors have now blocked key words related to the data leak.

Experts say if it is true, the leak would be the biggest ever.

One person called the data leak “horrifying” on a Chinese social media site.

One computer data expert said leaks like this one are common.

Michael Gazeley works for Network Box, a security company in Hong Kong. He said most of the data leaks on the “dark web” come from the U.S. Gazeley noted there are 12 billion stolen accounts posted on the dark web. Information on the dark web is said to be not searchable by search engines like Google.

Chester Wisniewski of the internet security company Sophos said the leak might be “embarrassing to the Chinese government.” He said the political problems that come from the data leak will be worse than any damage to people whose data was stolen.

Kendra Schaefer is a technology researcher at the company Trivium China which is based in Beijing. She said if the data came from the Ministry of Public Security, it would be bad “for a number of reasons.” She added that it “would be among the biggest and worst breaches in history.” The ministry oversees China’s police forces and is responsible for public security.

For those concerned about their data, Wisniewski said the hackers likely only have basic information. He compared it to what advertising companies use to target advertisements.

“It’s static information, it’s not about where they traveled, who they communicated with or what they were doing,” he said. Static means that something shows little or no change.

But, he warned people who are concerned to “take precautions to protect themselves,” because once the information is “unleashed” it is “forever out there.”

Binance is an exchange for cryptocurrency, internet-based money not linked with a country. It said Monday that it is taking the data theft seriously. Zhao Changpeng is the head of the company. He said the information could permit account takeovers. He said Binance is taking steps to strengthen account security.

The news comes as China recently promised it would push for greater security of online user data. China passed new laws last year about how people’s personal information should be dealt with.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.

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Words in This Story

hacker– n. a person who secretly gets access to a computer system in order to get information or cause damage

terabyte –n. a measure of computer memory equal to about 1 trillion bytes

censor – n. a person who examines media and removes things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, or harmful to society

keyword –n. a word used to find information in a piece of writing

horrifying – adj. causing horror or shock; greatly upsetting

embarrass – v. to make someone look fooling in public

precaution – n. something that is done to prevent possible harm