The Great Debate UK
Google’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.