Scan headlines from the last few months and you’d be forgiven for thinking that China’s Big Brother project is almost complete: cameras everywhere, facial recognition databases, and a punitive social credit system. Not only is reality far from this depiction, but China suffers from an even more insidious problem common throughout the world: idiots with a database.

For years, cybersecurity experts have been warning of unsecured devices connected to the internet (printers, cameras, and pretty much any smart device in your home). That problem hasn’t even been solved effectively and, starting from last year, we’ve seeing more and more databases in China left completely open to those who know how to find them. And if “white hats” are making their discoveries public, who knows what the “black hats” have been getting up to.

Bottom line: China is getting serious about data privacy, but that won’t stop incompetent sysadmins. Since the Cybersecurity Law came into effect in 2017, enforcement agencies have become stricter in their monitoring and enforcement over data privacy. Take a look at our headlines over the last week or so and you’ll quickly see this trend. However, Chinese law, and its historically patchy enforcement, isn’t enough to prevent undertrained and overworked IT professionals from overlooking basic security procedures. As with so many areas—business plansworking conditions, or externalized costs—it’s time for Chinese companies to grow up and slow down a little, trading off some of China’s speed for a little safety.

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John Artman

John Artman is the Editor in Chief for TechNode, the leading English information source for news and insight into China’s tech and startups, and co-host of the China Tech Talk podcast, a regular discussion...