China officials ‘behind Google hacking’

Google thumb1 China officials behind Google hackingThe Chinese government may have ordered cyber attacks on Google, according to the latest US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Citing the cables, the New York Times said China made repeated and often successful hacking attacks on the US government, private enterprises and Western allies as far back as 2002.

Google closed its China-based search engine service in March, two months after saying it would stop censoring results.

It said the move was a response to what it described as a sophisticated cyber attack that it traced to China.

The dispute was resolved in July after Google tweaked the way it directs users to an unfiltered search engine.

The paper quoted one cable dated earlier this year as saying: ‘A well-placed contact claims that the Chinese government co-ordinated the recent intrusions of Google systems.

‘According to our contact, the closely held operations were directed at the Politburo Standing Committee level.’

It added that the cable quoted the contact as saying the hacking of Google ‘had been co-ordinated out of the State Council Information Office with the oversight’ of two members of the Communist Party’s Politburo: Li Changchun and Zhou Yongkang.

It said Zhou is China’s top security official.

But the New York Times said that in an interview with the paper, the redacted contact named in the cable, ‘a Chinese person with family connections to the elite,’ denied knowing who directed the attack.

The person said it was one of Li’s subordinates who orchestrated a campaign to force Google to abide by censorship regulations, and Li and Zhou signed off on the plan at several points.

‘But the person did not know whether senior leaders directed the attack,’ the paper added.

There has not been an explanation of the discrepancy between what the person said in the interview and what was attributed to the person in the cable.

The cables did not make clear how the cyber attacks blamed on China were co-ordinated, and it is believed that the cables contain suppositions passed along by diplomats.

According to the cables, at least one previously unreported 2008 attack, which US investigators code-named Byzantine Candor, yielded more than 50 megabytes of email messages and a complete list of user names and passwords from a US government agency.


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