[Foundation-l] A new approach to China - Google
pbeaudette at wikimedia.org
Tue Jan 12 23:53:30 UTC 2010
A new approach to China
1/12/2010 03:00:00 PM
Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of
varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a
highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate
infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of
intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that
what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a
significant one--was something quite different.
First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our
investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large
companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet,
finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly
targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those
companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.
Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the
attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights
activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack
did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have
been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information
(such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather
than the content of emails themselves.
Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on
Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-,
China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights
in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.
These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at
Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the
We have already used information gained from this attack to make
infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security
for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would
advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs
on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and
to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on
links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share
personal information like passwords online. You can read more here
about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more
about these kinds of attacks can read this U.S. government report
(PDF), Nart Villeneuve's blog andthis presentation on the GhostNet
We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these
attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and
human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because
this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate
about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic
reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted
hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this
great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development
in the world today.
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits
of increased access to information for people in China and a more open
Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results.
At the time we made clear that "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."
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with
the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the
web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of
our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer
willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over
the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government
the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within
the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to
shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
The decision to review our business operations in China has been
incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-
reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven
by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or
involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard
to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working
responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal
Facilitator, Strategy Project
philippe at wikimedia.org
mobile: 918 200-WIKI (9454)
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