(Bloomberg) -- China is probing potential security risks related to geographical information going overseas, vowing to “cut off the evil hands” that steal data, another sign President Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on data flows.
An article posted on a Ministry of State Security’s social media account on Monday said software used in “important industries” was collecting and sending such data overseas. Some of the information included state secrets, the article added, pointing to pipeline networks and military facilities.
The spy agency also said certain foreign organizations and individuals have spied on China using geographic information system software, which is used in a range of industries such as engineering and can analyze data about the location of buildings, streets and more on the Earth’s surface.
The campaign came on the heel of October, when the spy agency announced it was cracking down on weather stations with foreign links it said posed a security threat. It separately warned about genetic data and the risk that bioweapons could be developed to target individuals of a particular race.
China has ramped up its focus on national security and data flows over Xi’s decade-plus in power, raising concern among foreign companies that they could run afoul of the law. Beijing enacted a sweeping data security law in 2021 to ramp up control over information flows, expanded an anti-espionage law to crack down on spying, and is more recently updating its state secrets law.
The MSS also warned in its post that some citizens lack awareness of data security and have been posting the high-precision geographical coordinates of sensitive areas on maps. These coordinates could help restore the country’s key transport, energy and military sites, the MSS said, which could severely undermine military security.
“Geographic information data is high-value intelligence and is the focus of intelligence theft by overseas spy agencies,” MSS said.
The article didn’t name any foreign entities or GIS softwares. Some of the popular softwares, such as MapInfo Pro and ArcGIS, are developed by US companies. China has also introduced its own products including MapGIS and SuperMap.
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