The much publicized attack on Google’s computer systems in China earlier this year was directed by China’s Politburo, according to classified U.S. government documents released by the Web site WikiLeaks.org and reported today by several news organizations.
“The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government,” The New York Times reported.
This latest WikiLeaks release included thousands of communications between U.S. diplomats, their foreign counterparts and the U.S. State Department. A Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January about the Politburo’s involvement in the Google case, the Times noted. This is additional detail not previously revealed about the role of the Chinese government, which has denied involvement.
In all, 34 companies were identified as having their computer systems hacked. Google reacted to the hacking by refusing to continue to censor Google search results in China on behalf of the government and directed visitors to its site that is based in Hong Kong. Google later backed down and had its Internet Content Provider license renewed by China. Visiting China.cn does not redirect to the Hong Kong site, though there is a link to Hong Kong on the Chinese Google site. Google has also restricted searches on Google.cn to " music, products and translation," according to PC World.
Computer security experts said at the time that one of the ways hackers were able to gain access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists was by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows computers, particularly in unpatched versions of the Internet Explorer 6 Web browser.
An additional review of diplomatic cables revealed that Chinese hackers have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, according to the Times.
I have reported previously on this blog about the suspicions of cyber security experts of the duplicity of government officials in various countries, mainly China and Russia, in supporting or even just condoning cyber crime. Today we’ve got more proof of institutional involvement. The Poliburo is the governing body of the Communist Party of China.
Robert Mullins is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. He has been writing about technology from Silicon Valley for more than a decade. He has covered such beats as network security, servers, storage, software development, telecommunications and, of course, Microsoft, for a variety of publications, most notably the IDG News Service and Network World.