Millions of Chinese citizen IDs exposed by online store

An abstract image of a database
(Image credit: Image Credit: Pixabay)

Millions of Chinese citizens have had their sensitive data exposed online thanks to yet another unprotected database. 

Cybersecurity researchers from recently reported finding a major database generated by Zhefengle, a Chinese ecommerce store that focuses on importing products from abroad.

The database held 3.3 million orders made by Zhefengle’s customers between 2015 and 2020. In some cases, the entries contained shipping addresses and phone numbers, and in other cases even copies of government-issued identity cards. 

Unprotected databases

When importing products from abroad, Chinese citizens are sometimes asked to verify their identity, TechCrunch reports, adding that the practice of requiring a copy of the ID card to be uploaded was “not uncommon”. 

The database was not protected by a password, so whoever knew its IP address could have easily accessed it. At press time, it wasn’t known if any malicious actors discovered the database before the researchers, or if it was already used in any phishing attacks or identity theft.

We do know that the owners locked it down soon after. Replying to the publication, the store owners said: “The vulnerability has been addressed promptly. We are currently investigating the cause internally.”

Unprotected databases are one of the most common ways sensitive data gets spilled online. In early October this year, researchers found a database belonging to Real Simple Systems, that kept personally identifiable and sensitive information on hundreds of thousands of people.

A month prior, in September, Microsoft was spotted making the same mistake, as Wiz found a major Microsoft Azure cloud storage database containing, among other things, private keys and passwords. The database belonged to Microsoft’s researchers working on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and was allegedly 38TB heavy.

In May, Toyota was found keeping an unprotected database of 2.15 million users. "It was discovered that part of the data that Toyota Motor Corporation entrusted to Toyota Connected Corporation to manage had been made public due to misconfiguration of the cloud environment," the company said at the time.

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.