More details have come to light about the Chinese data leak targeting Pacific countries as the data cache reveals a number of criminals have also been affected and that's now raising alarm.
It comes after 1 NEWS on Thursday revealed how a tech company linked to Chinese intelligence has gathered information about individuals across the region.
Tech company Zhenhua Data have harvested personal details of more than 800 people across the region, many of them family members of key players.
“It makes somebody become vulnerable when members of your family are also a part of the bigger strategic power game,” says Steven Ratuva of Canterbury University.
Some criminals are also included in China's Pacific data across a number of countries. Examples include Papua New Guinea which has 13 people listed for various offences.
Vanuatu has seven people, all linked to financial crime and another seven from Samoa, convicted of identity theft, conspiracy and money laundering.
Fiji also has seven people guilty of various crimes including drugs and abuse of office.
“The fact there are criminals on the list is interesting in itself but perhaps more interesting is the type of criminal they are - it may well be they are going to be used for leverage for some reason,” says Jarrod Gilbert, director of criminal justice at Canterbury University.
Experts are warning the Pacific can expect to see more of these types of secretive tactics, designed to influence or disrupt in order for another country to achieve its own strategic goals.
“This is the red flag for the Pacific that China in the Pacific is not just the good neighbour that’s engaging with the region in a friendly manner, there is also another side to the coin when you are engaging with China in the region,” security expert Jose Sousa-Santos says.
New Zealand is being urged to take a partnership role with Pacific countries over the data leak.
“We do tend to be pretty silent when it comes to China and I do think that is rather shameful particularly because the influence in the Pacific is becoming more significant and is increasingly looking slightly nefarious,” Gilbert says.