torsdag 18. februar 2010

Chinese schools implicated in Google hacker attacks

For over a month now, authorities have been investigating the origins of several online attacks against Google, thought to be launched by hackers seeing personal data on Chinese human rights activists. Today, they announced that two schools in mainland China, including one linked to the military, might be the source — a break in the case first reported by the New York Times.
While the major American search engine only reported the attacks in mid-January, new evidence shows that they might have begun up to 8 months earlier. The two schools allegedly involved in the breach include Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School. The latter offers a complex computer science class reportedly taught by a Ukrainian professor. Until now, investigators were only able to follow the trail as far as servers in Taiwan.
Also until today, it was widely believed that the Chinese government or military had played a major role in the attacks. While the vocational school has sent some computer science students into the military, the ties are fairly tenuous. Finding that the attacks came out of academic institutions could help calm hostilities between the U.S. and China.
Then again, rumors are already circulating (even in the U.S. intelligence community), that one or both of the schools could be fronts for Chinese government operations. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a conspiracy theory, some analysts are even suggesting that Chinese search engine Baidu, the Goliath to Google’s David in China — and a close affiliate of the company that runs the vocational school’s network — could have a hand in the fray.
So far, Google hasn’t release any statements about the news. It will be interesting to see if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds. When word of the attacks first surfaced, she wasn’t at all shy about confronting the Chinese government, not only over their internet security policies, but also about their strict online censorship laws that Google very publicly rejected at the start of the year.
Will knowing more about the origin of the attacks make a difference in Google’s approach to Asia’s market? How will the schools be dealt with? And on a broader scale, how will China’s government regulate and enforce hacker activity and other online malfeasance going forward?

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