Google Uncovers Cyber Attack, Threatens To Exit China [Update]

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It takes big cajones to stand up to China these days and Google just whipped em out after a thwarted cyber attack. According to Google, the attack was a “sophisticated and targeted attack” on the companies corporate infrastructure, which resulted in stolen IP. *gasp*

Turns out the attack was not only aimed at Google, though. Some ~20 companies in various industries (Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors) were affected by the attack originating in China. The attack was three fold, says Google. It was discovered that a handful of Chinese human rights activists’ Gmail accounts had attempted breaches. Turns out only two accounts were accessed and the only information gleaned was time/date sent and subject lines. Outside of the attack, Google discovered that several Gmail accounts of various US-, Europe- and China-based activists in China had been “routinely accessed by third parties.” This last bit is completely irrelevant to the story, but Google felt the need to mention it, so I’m doing the same.

(More on Techland: A Virtual Storage Locker for Google Docs)

Citing the basic right to free speech and a statement issued in 2006 when Google.cn was launched (“we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”), Google will enter into discussions with the government to discuss how they can operate an “unfiltered search engine” within the parameters of the law.

If they’re unable to reach an agreement, Google will shut down operations in China altogether, says David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer.

Google Blog

Update: We’ll likely be updating this story as things progress. Here’s a note from Secretary of State Clinton:

We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. I will be giving an address next week on the centrality of internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear.

Update 2: As expected, China is censoring the news that Google might be withdrawing from the country. Headlines have either disappeared or been heavily edited, says the NYT. Students and sympathizers alike have shown up at the Google China offices with flowers, candles and booze in support of Google. This quote really caught my attention.

“It’s not Google that’s withdrawing from China, it’s China that’s withdrawing from the world,” read one message.

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