[Foundation-l] A new approach to China - Google

Philippe Beaudette 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  
users' computers.

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  
spying incident.

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  

Philippe Beaudette	
Facilitator, Strategy Project
Wikimedia Foundation

philippe at wikimedia.org

mobile: 	918 200-WIKI (9454)

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