Google cyber-complaint is tip of iceberg

January 14, 2010

cyran3Google’s cyber-complaint is the tip of an iceberg. Coordinated attacks on IT systems are common, yet companies and governments have kept largely silent. The growth of computer services that rely heavily on the Internet means the stakes are growing higher. That may explain why Google spoke up about recent attempts to steal its intellectual property — and why the U.S. State Department has also taken China to task.

The scope of the recent attacks points to a complex operation. More than 30 companies were attacked simultaneously through an undiscovered software security hole. The incursions appear to have had the blessing of the Chinese government, if not its direct involvement. It is hard to imagine who else would be interested in the email accounts of political dissidents, which Google claims were targeted.

The concerted assault also bears similarities to one on 100 companies last year, according to security experts at iDefense. So it shouldn’t be dismissed as a one-off or rogue operation.

The amount of information and money at risk from such attacks is growing. An increasing percentage of many companies’ value comprises patents and trade secrets. The theft of physical goods is rarely life-threatening for their manufacturer. A software company, on the other hand, can be destroyed if its secret sauce is stolen.

Microsoft, for instance, has persistently complained about piracy of its software in China and elsewhere. But Google has gone a step further, squawking about a security breach that makes it look vulnerable. Other companies, and governments, have mostly kept quiet about this kind of trouble.

That may change, because Google’s problem is rapidly becoming everybody’s. The growth of cloud computing — where services such as email, spreadsheets and word processing are served online — increases the vulnerability of companies and governments to Internet-based attacks. Hillary Clinton’s State Department appears to be backing up Google’s complaint.

Western governments are heavily involved behind the scenes with tackling gaps in Internet security. But cyber-attacks that appear to be state-sponsored arguably call for a more public response as well. Clinton’s decision to point a finger openly at the Chinese government could just be the beginning.


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The government of China does not seem to like Internet, they appear to change it into an Intranet, as a sort of political weapon against the mass of freedom lovers.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive

Spare a thought for why China does not want unbridled internet access: because so-called freedom lovers from the west want to cause trouble, and this is someone else’s country. Ask yourself what price “freedom” if this really means allowing outsiders to muster trouble for a government? Ask yourself what price “freedom” if this also means the much less attractive aspects of the western culture being allowed to permeate throughout a society? Maybe it is time the west looked at its own moral values and standards of behaviour: not everyone in the world likes what they see, and they are perfectly within their rights to inhibit and curtail those unattractive excesses. It is my opinion that if messrs Google doesn’t like the trading conditions in China, trade elsewhere because it is the height of impudence to go to another country and want rules changed just to suit your method of making profit! THE WORLD IS NOT FOR SALE!!

Posted by LarryNorth | Report as abusive

>”That may explain why Google spoke up about recent attempts to steal its intellectual property”

Oh, like Google books!

Posted by KmacKenzie | Report as abusive

Google doesn’t mind if information is available on its websites, as long as it is legitimately accessed.

Much like China doesn’t mind if information is stolen, as long as it is the one doing the stealing.

What can you expect from a communist dictatorship that doesn’t respect property rights, and barely respects human rights?

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

to LarryNorth,
Why shouldn’t Google demand changing laws in china for the benefit of a trading advantage? Does China not do the same to the U.S.?

Posted by freedomfighter | Report as abusive

The communist Chinese government doesn’t respect human rights at all. And this is how it has always been for communist regimes. Everything they do is designed to keep the populace subdued so they can remain in power. It’s all about self-preservation using any means. The Chinese judicial system is a farce that results in 1000s of people being executed every year with no appeal or due process of any sort.

Life is cheap in China.

But, there will be a day of reckoning someday. Once enough middle class Chinese grow tired of the gross violations of human rights, they will have another revolution.

Posted by Gantra | Report as abusive

love the way the west would look down and judge the way other people live. look at the way we live in the west. we allow people to cheat on thier partners day in dayout. we ve lost our morals, we have non. the rate of murderers and rapists, and peodophiliers is more than alot of countries in the east. and we look down at them. we need to sort our selves out before we look at them.

Posted by mosh | Report as abusive

Don’t mis-direct this issue,like China did,to only making a profit. Google spoke up because China’s double standard. It restricts internet access against any person, group or company that could affect the government’s control over the greater population. Control is all they are interested in here. YET… they allows hackers from Chinese Universities and other places to hack foreign business in China and any computer outside. I have often tracked from my firewall logs hacking and virus traffic coming from China.

Posted by TheRangoonPost | Report as abusive

Larry North,

The mixing of cultural ideologies and human freedoms of choice, expression, assembly, etc… is the new norm in this world of instant access. People from all over the world communicate and share ideas. Maybe some of them are not the best ideas, but then again the Chinese government will not be able to block the rest of the world out of its borders forever.

If they use the internet then they will have to accept everything that comes with it. Just like those who are born into this world must accept life with all of its joys and sorrows.

The Chinese government claims to be cracking down on porn and what ever can be construed as obscene. But obscenity is a highly subjective idea and should be left to individuals to decide for themselves. China does not want its people to have access to information that would give them the idea that there are other choices that can be made.

If it is the “people’s republic” then why do the people not have a choice in what they access? The Chinese government is not communist, and it is not socialist. The government is a self preserving dictatorial organization. If it were really communist or socialist, the people would be the ones making the decisions. But they cannot. In truly socialistic societies people are valued more highly than money or property. In China this is not the case. Their government has simply replaced an emperor with a bunch of “little emperors” that keep the people in mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage. Information was meant to be free. And people who are not allowed to enrich their minds will wither and die inside before their bodies catch up.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Benny Acosta said it Very well.

Posted by TheRangoonPost | Report as abusive

The point is being missed,though all the above are excellent issues.

The issue at hand is Cyber attack. State sponsored hacking into private property threatens not only Google’s rights but the rights and privacy of Chinese users and ultimately anyone who has a gmail account.

Regardless of the differences of east and west values, I think it could be unanimously agreed that breaking in and stealing or spying is a universally condemned act. I think if it was a matter of censorship, Google would have shrugged its shoulders and pressed the chinese powers that be in closed doors. But this action being reported is insidious and criminal.

Google has a legitimate gripe…how can it justify investing in a country that doesn’t respect fundamentally lawful behavior; and is the source of a direct hack into a company’s most sensitive resources?

Posted by Dr.Savage | Report as abusive

Dr. Savage is quite correct. And actions being a direct reflection of values, we can see the values held by the Chinese government.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

I think the US should take a much stronger stance than that. I (along with the legions of other Americans) am absolutely tired of Chinese dumping here. I would like these companies to stand up for the country, and the people, that made them famous. Force our leaders to punish China by cutting off trade. I am sure there many, many, many American companies willing to produce good in America for a little more than they make them in China.

Posted by Jay1998 | Report as abusive

Just sad to see so many ‘Better off’ people are looking down China from a thin layer of ice thats going to crack any minute. They live in the Chinese mode without even knowing it. Just like what the colonel said in Rwanda Hotel. Afraid and evrything.

Posted by CNP | Report as abusive

So interesting to read all the comments submitted by the “Chinese Bashing Liberals”!The fact is their economy and country are NOT IMPLODING, speaks for it’s self!If you LIBERALS don’t think for one minute that thousands of individuals are not being “monitored” in the US…WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

Posted by stoli007 | Report as abusive

There’s something else here that is being studiously ingnored by the North American media, which is that China isn’t the only country involved in learning about cyber-espionage. And I’m not referring to Cuba or Russia.

Does anyone really believe that the US government, the CIA and other US agencies, have no interest in knowing how to bring down another country’s communications systems?

The US is the world’s primary warrior nation and as such has had the military and CIA focusing for years on the methods of cyber-attacking a country with which it potentially might have a conflict.

How do you suppose all the current trouble in Iran was escalated so quickly? Do you really believe it was teen-agers on Facebook who are sowing all the seeds of dissent and trying to bring down the government?

Patriotism is all well and good, but let’s not be naive, and for goodness’ sake let’s stop being so hypocritical. Once again, the pot is calling the kettle black.

Posted by WatchingChina | Report as abusive

Our country is flawed. There can be no doubt about that. The difference between us and China is that as a citizen of the US one can speak their mind about the government and not worry about being jailed or vanishing in the middle of the night.

Try speaking about the government or demanding rights in China and see how far you get. The individual person is nothing but a cog in the Chinese machine. Citizens in the US can usher in change. It takes us a long time because we’ve become lazy and complacent about getting the shaft from our leaders. But the Chinese people don’t even have the option of speaking their minds if they disagree with the government. In this sense our countries are nothing alike.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive