Over 8 billion Thai internet records have leaked from their largest cell network AIS as security researchers discovered the leak, which is now safe, but just how much damage did it do? 

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How Did This Happen?

The largest cell network in Thailand AIA has recently removed a database offline that was leaking out billions of real-time internet records on its millions of Thai internet users. Justine Paine, a security researcher, said in a blog post that he was able to find the database which contained several DNQ queries and Netflow data that doesn't need a password to access.

From the database, Paine was able to tell or "paint a picture" about what an internet-user at home does in real-time. Paine was able to alert the AIS, which promptly opened the database on May 13. Still, after not receiving any news from AIA in a week, he resorted to reporting the massive leak to Thailand's national computer response team or commonly called ThaiCERT, in which they were the ones to contact AIS about the leakage.

Contacting ThaiCERT did the trick, and the database was no longer accessible a short time after. The database's owner is still incognito, and Paine was able to report to TechCrunch that the kind of records that could be found on the database could only come from someone who was able to monitor internet traffic as it comes through the network. However, there is no easy way to differentiate if the database belongs to the internet provider or one of its many subsidiaries.

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Important Details

DNS queries can be a side-effect of using the internet as a whole. You get them by visiting a website, and the browser of your choice converts the web address to a unique IP address. By doing so, it tells the browser exactly where the web page is located on the internet. Thankfully, DNS queries do not store private messages, emails, sensitive details, etc. Instead, it shares which websites you access as well as the various apps that you generally use.

DNS queries can still pose a significant problem for high-risk people like activists and journalists. Internet records could be used to identify sources who prefer to remain anonymous. Those are just one of the examples, but surely there are more that could be used for nefarious means.

Thailand's internet surveillance laws grant authorities to sweep access to internet user data. The country has the most severe censorship laws in Asia, which forbids any scrutiny against the Thai royal family, national security, and certain political issues.

Paine used the data to show how anyone with access could learn a number of things from a single internet-connected household, such as what kind of devices they owned, the antivirus they use, preferred browsers, and most frequently used social media apps and websites. Advertisers also find DNS data a gold mine to potentially target specific ads your way.

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