Google in China 2010

wiredgoogleOn January 12, Google announced that phishing attacks discovered in 2009 had compromised security at Google and more than twenty other industry companies. The attacks appear to have originated in China.

According to Macworld magazine, the intruders initially accessed the system through which law enforcement bodies retrieve Google users’ data. The resulting investigation led to the discovery that Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists and advocates of human rights in China from around the world had been monitored or accessed to different degrees. However, the larger aim of the attacks was source code and other intellectual property from Google and the up to 33 other companies targeted.

Following the attacks, Google announced they would be prepared to discontinue their China-based search engine and mainland China operations if the government did not permit them to cease filtering Chinese Google search engine results. People in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong gathered spontaneously at Google offices to offer flowers and support.

Flowers for Google
Photo by Scott Chang on Flickr

Google has also identified links to a large Chinese cyber-spying operation named GhostNet that was revealed in March 2009.

Given the widespread nature of the attacks this story is no longer just about China or Google, but about the larger implications of information and technology companies operating in countries with censorship. With that in mind, Global Voices Online will update this collection of links and posts as the story continues and develops.

Recent Global Voices posts

23 March – China: migrated to Hong Kong
23 March – China: Singing farewell to Google
23 Jan – China:Google's announcement to clarify rumors brings in more speculations
19 Jan – China: Twitter survey on a Google departure
13 Jan – China: Google's possible exile leads to cyber protests; Netizens on move

Past Global Voices stories on Google in China

19 Jun 2009 – CCTV's propaganda campaign against
10 Jun 2006 – Google's China Problem
25 Jan 2006 – in China

Recommended Reading

panGloss: Google and China: the fallout continues “…I find it difficult to see how current international law can define cyber attacks and especially cyber espionage as armed attacks justifying, eg, the doctrine of self defense.”

gap intelligence: China Vs Google: Round One

CNReviews: Google In China Is Better Than No Google In China

culturalbites: My Suggestions for Making Google's Services More Relevant for Non-Elite Chinese Users

Chinayouren: Why it’s Good that Leaves+SEM(2)


Chinayouren: Google: Good News + Advanced Study of SEM (1)

RConversation: How not to save the Internet…

Schneier on Security: Google vs. China

ars technica: Google v. China: the Chinese government reacts “After announcing the decision to stop censoring search results, Google abruptly changed its position on the Global Online Freedom Act.”

Ethiopian Review: Google Vs China – lessons for Ethiopia

BoingBoing: Google vs. China vs. Google: update roundup

Tofu Watch: Losing face, stating facts: Google in China

Chinayouren: Google: Don’t Make that Mistake

Angry Chinese Blogger: Google V Beijing?

Rebecca MacKinnon – RConversation: Google, China, and the future of freedom on the global Internet

DigiCha: What IP Was Stolen From Google, And Where Does Morality Come Into The Picture?

Double Jeopardy: An Epic Fight “For the first time in living memory, a multinational giant has openly defied and challenged Chinese authority.”

EastSouthNorthWest: Google Search Results On Chinese Subjects

Fons Tuinstra: The hacker attack on Google cs – Whodunit?

Xujun Eberlein: Communist Spies at Google China?

EastSouthNorthWest: The Truth About The Google Affair

Gizmodo: Google Hacked the Chinese Hackers Right Back “Still, it's pretty awesome: If you hack Google, they will hack your ass right back.”

Steve Evans: Microsoft admits IE flaw caused Google hack

Internet Censorship Explorer: Chatter… “It is not the method of attack that is the story here, its the high profile of the victims and public disclosure by Google as well as Google decision to challenge China’s censorship that have made it so interesting.”

DigiCha: What About Google’s Chinese Partners?

China Media Project: Weighing in on Google’s predicament in China

Funny China: bouquets for google china

EastSouthWestNorth: Google Leaving? Is this because they couldn't adapt, or because they are bitter?

CHINAYOUREN: Reasons why Google defied China, Google vs. China: All the possible WHYs? and Google vs. China: some Funny Stuff

ChinaGeeks: Google Leaving China? Chinese Responses

ChinaOpps: Why is Google leaving China (part 2)


OpenNet Initiative Blog: Google's China Decision Could Have Far-Reaching Implications

Rebecca MacKinnon – RConversation: Google puts its foot down.

Danwei: Google, Baidu, and wild speculation

Shanghaiist: Everything (almost) that's happened with Google + China so far

China Digital Times: “It’s Not Google that’s Withdrawing from China; It’s China that’s Withdrawing from the World”

The Useless Tree: Google and The Power of the Internet in China

EastSouthWestNorth: The Withdrawal of Google from China is only Psychological Warfare

Net Effect: Doubting the sincerity of Google's threat “…should we expect that, instead of direct censorship, authoritarian governments would now simply launch cyberattacks on their targets and force them to leave under psychological pressure?”

Zero Hedge: Google’s Mysterious Threat To Pull Out Of China – Is A Covert War Brewing Between The U.S. And China?

Imagethief: Google detonates the China corporate communications script

Other References

(2007) Isaac Mao: An Open Letter to Google Founders— to save Google in China and save Internet in China Google-China cyber espionage saga – FAQ

Global Network Initiative: GNI Statement on Google’s New Approach to China “It is essential that the global ICT industry and its stakeholders make a public and shared commitment to respect user rights in the face of increased threats to freedom of expression and privacy.”

Huffington Post: Latest Updates On Google's Threat To Leave

ars technica: Researchers identify command servers behind Google attack

Danny Sullivan/search engine land: After The Hack, Should I Still Trust Google & The Cloud With My Data? “Most criticism over the years about Google and data that it collects or stores has focused on the idea that Google itself would be the bad actor. Google would go evil and spy on everything you do. In reality, it may be external parties that we should be most worried about.”

Hillicon Valley: Bill would set ground rules for firms doing business in China “A House bill would set a code of conduct for [American] companies doing business with China and other restrictive governments.”

Wall Street Journal: Google Gets On the Right Side of History

CircleID: Google, China, and Lawful Intercept “The most interesting aspect of the whole affair, though, might be one of the ways the attacker got in.”

Wired: Google to Stop Censoring Search Results in China After Hack Attack

TechCrunch: Google’s China Stance: More about Business than Thwarting Evil

McAfee Research Blog: More Details on “Operation Aurora”

McAfee Security Insights Blog: Operation “Aurora” Hit Google, Others

CSR Asia: Google reconsiders China strategy

-Operation Aurora
-Google China
-Illegal flower tribute
-Zero day attack (0-day exploit)
-Censorship by Google
-Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China

Google in Beijing, Tsinghua Science Park - by beltzner on Flickr

Google in Beijing, Tsinghua Science Park – by beltzner on Flickr