In February, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) released an unclassified version of its report on Chinese intelligence efforts against U.S. citizens.

The report provides a scathing breakdown of how China has been stealing data, including DNA files, which are like a biological ID of your health data and medical background, to pursue its economic, security, and foreign-policy goals.

On the face of it, China is using legally and illegally acquired healthcare data as part of an effort to become the global leader in biotechnology and medicine. But this data theft reflects a more sinister ambition.

In addition to financial gains, China is using stolen data to target dissidents, foreign intelligence officers, and even its own citizens, including ones spying on their government.

In data, China sees control; in control, it sees security.

China DNA
A lab technician works with human DNA. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

Who’s Big Brother?

Beijing’s focus on data and the creation of a security state where every movement, interaction, and transaction is monitored makes George Orwell’s “Big Brother” look like a petty amateur.

China’s interest in stolen data isn’t new, but it was only in the early 2010s that it ramped up its data-collection efforts. Around that time, the Chinese security services discovered just how deep U.S. intelligence had penetrated China’s security and military apparatuses.

The Chinese government’s interest in data exceeds traditional security norms. For example, in 2015, the U.S. government revealed that Chinese hackers broke into the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and stole sensitive data — including security background forms, fingerprint records, and health and financial data — from millions of current and former U.S. officials and applicants for federal jobs.