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Is Google an agent of the US Government? It certainly gives that impression

So, individual Gmail accounts have been the victim of a Chinese hack-attack. As ever, we’ll never know for sure who was responsible, but you don’t need to read too closely between the lines of Google’s blog post to be sure that Google thinks that the Chinese government was, at some level, behind it.


Why do I say that? Well, two reasons.

First Google highlights the subjects of the attacks viz “senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists…military personnel and journalists”, with the obvious implication that the purpose of this was political, not commercial espionage.

Second, it pointedly notes the origin of the attack, which was in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province that is also home of the Shandong Lanxiang Senior Technical School which some US investigators cited as the source of last year’s attack on Google (that prompted them to partially pull out of China).

The attacks throw up a bunch of interesting questions that only serve to fuel the growing suspicions between China and the West. From a Chinese perspective the overriding question about Google’s rather sanctimonious blogpost on net security (note the simplistic, Manichean division of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in that opening para) is, “Why now?”

Such “spear phishing” attacks occur on the web millions of times a day; everyone has experienced them, so why should Google put out a statement about this particular attack? Why not on the millions of others?

The answer in many Chinese minds is clear: it must be political. Either Google is working at the behest of the US Government to smear China, or it wants to attack Beijing for its own commercial reasons – perhaps in pique for its failure to crack the Chinese market.

Michael Anti, one of China’s most renowned net commentators, was among those scratching his head for the motivation behind Google’s announcement when I spoke with him this morning.

This is a very unsophisticated attack, every gang in Nigeria does this kind of thing, so why does Google announce this one and not others? They could make an announcement like this every single day.

Of course people will wonder if it is political, and ask about how Google is attached to the US government, but I guess without a mole in Google HQ we’ll never know.

And equally, without a mole in the Chinese government, we’ll never know at what level this attack, which given its targets would appear to have the finger prints of the Chinese government all over it, was orchestrated.

When I spoke to Anti, I was also curious as to why, if this was a government attack (as he agreed it appeared to be) it was so clumsy and unsophisticated. This attack was nothing like the “highly sophisticated” hit on Google’s deep infrastructure in January last year that experts say was the work of high-end programmers.

So, why risk the international embarrassment when no doubt China’s cyber-warfare units – presumably like the American ones – must have all manner of sophisticated spy-bots, malware and other gizmos at their disposal to ferret out information in a clandestine manner?

“Ah, that’s easy,” said Anti with a broad smile, “the reason is that they [China’s security agencies] don’t give a sh*t what the world thinks. That’s someone else’s problem.”

Sometimes you have to feel pity for China’s diplomatic corps.

Filed in: World News

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