It appears that the Chinese government is in the business of hacking Google. Recently, “the most sophisticated online attack ever seen outside of the defense industry” has been linked to the Chinese government. This attack was primarily aimed at Google along with many other companies, like Adobe, to purposefully take advantage and exploit a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer. A zero-day vulnerability is where an exploit happens on the same day the vulnerability is known. During this time of exploit, Google claims that the Chinese government gained access and stole information and intellectual property along with gaining access to Gmail accounts of human rights activists. Google’s response and position is that it now might quit China. These attacks may not have come as any surprise.
British Intelligence (MI5) has warned British and American companies that the Chinese were planning cyber attacks upon their networks. But Google’s situation may be unique in that it has openly butted-heads against the Chinese governments’ censorship of the Internet. If you reside in China, you live behind a curtain of Internet censorship which will disallow you to find information that the government does not want you to have access to…quite possibly this article will be censored soon? China’s formal response to its Internet censorship was stated by their foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, that “China’s internet is open, China welcomes international internet enterprises [like Google] to conduct business in China according to law.”
Google has always been speaking-out openly that clear and free access and use of the Internet is a fundamental right. This calling is not unique to Google, but it is mostly a statement agreed upon by the international community. In turn, China invoked the Green Dam Censorware System. This system which is empowered by law as China sees it, beginning last July 1st, stipulates that every PC sold in China must include this software. The Green Dam Censorware System basically works by using software filters that block URL’s and website images by monitoring text and applications. This puts Google in a precarious position because its presence in Beijing is becoming a contradiction in its identity: free and unabated access to the Internet while its host is fervently against such notions. This tension, seen by the Chinese government as “insubordination”, might have been the purpose behind this cyber attack: punishment.
Punishment usually requires a method for carrying-out such discourse. The security hole in Internet Explorer was the path for which the punishment against Google was carried-out. Operation Aurora, for which this cyber attack has been named, was a carefully coordinated use of malware that included a not known trojan, until now. The Hydraq Trojan opens a back door to an infected computer allowing the hackers to not only monitor an infected computers activity but to steal data from the infected computer and the network to which that infected computer is attached to. One of these networks that was exploited hit very close to home here in Texas. This cyber attack by China also involved a San Antonio based company called Rackspace. Rackspace has nine data centers throughout the world with locations in San Antonio and Dallas. However, China’s heavy-handedness may force Google to leave China and China’s actions may create a new posture by other technology firms that do business in China. Nevertheless, this exit will not leave China without Internet access; it will only give their state run Internet portal, Baidu, total control of that market.