Google have announced that they may be closing their services in China following a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China”. They went on to say that the attacks, originating in China were directed at advocates of human rights in China.
Well the first thing to say is “About f**king time!”. As an activist in the Tibetan freedom movement I have received numerous attacks on my email account, as many as 10 in one day during the Olympics! Some of these are more sophisticated than others – the vast majority are VERY easy to spot as they use broken English and contain attachments from people I don’t know. Others are much more clever. One I received during the Olympics appeared to be from a colleague, they had cloned her email account and had written the email in fluent and clear English. It just so happened that I was sat in the office with that particular colleague at the time. In another instance I received an email appearing to be from a former colleague and friend who had recently left. The email address was right and the personal facts in the email – they knew where he worked and that he had recently left – were also right. They also knew our most basic security procedure – not opening attachments unless they were expected – and said in one email that they would send a document in the next. To be sure I rang the person the email was supposed to have come from and he had no knowledge of it at all. The attachments in both these cases were sent to an expert in computer viruses who did some analysis and found that the emails had some very sophisticated zero-day viruses and had originated in China. Though it cannot be definitively proven, it is widely believed that the attacks come from civilians in China who are recruited by the military specifically for this purpose, often from leading computer science universities.
It is telling that Google has gone public with this before talking to Chinese officials. This will have pissed the Chinese government off no end (always a good thing in my book), but also meant that unless there is a serious commitment to more openness from the Chinese government it makes it more likely that Google will leave.