More than 52 million pieces of personal information such as ID numbers, social security details, financial status, and property ownership have reportedly been compromised in various government-run systems across China, local media said on April 22.
According to data provided by loudong.360.cn, a security watchdog, high-risk loopholes have been found in systems such as social security, household administration, disease control, and hospitals in more than 30 cities across China -- and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Information security experts from the watchdog group said that the situation could be much more severe than expected; the unsecured information has the potential to be used by criminals to commit credit card and identity theft, and could also threaten national security.
Deng Huan, an industry expert from loudong.360.cn, told Economic Information that a single loophole at the family planning department in Hubei province puts 70 million citizens' personal information at risk, while a bug at a public health authority in Shandong has caused the same problem for 6 million children and 12 million parents in the province.
Poor awareness of online information protection in many government departments and companies is the main reason behind the leaks, according to a research institute.
"It is clear that local governments and departments such as social security failed in making sufficient investment and conducting supervision in information security," noted Yan Ming, director at the Third Research Institute of the Public Security Bureau.
He also said that the country needs more legislative support, and a system where people or organisations that are responsible for information leaks could be held accountable.