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Google Hacked: China Was After Human Rights Advocates

I have to admit my first reaction to these reports [1] was one of indifference.  After all, China has been hacking into just about everybody’s computers for as long as anybody can remember.
And yet, in looking at the situation a little more closely, we find out what China was really after was information about who anti communist activists are and what they’re doing.  David Drummond, The senior VP for Corporate Development and the Chief Legal Officer for Google, says this morning, in part:

Google's David Drummond [2]

Google's David Drummond

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.

Yes, well, after having had some recent experience with the Nigerian scam artists I mentioned a few weeks back, I have to seriously wonder how many of the phishing scams we see aren’t officially government sanctioned, by one government or another, or at least, unofficially tolerated because they produce favorable results for the current regime in whatever country we’re talking about. It’s my guess a large portion of them are.  Certainly, China’s government has been no stranger to such activity.

Google China [3]In this particular case, consider the implications involved; it seems a lead pipe cinch that investigations into the activities of human rights activists aren’t being undertaken by the Chinese people, so the Chinese government is immediately suspect.  After all, they and not the people there, are also the ones most likely to benefit from such activity.  By extension, then, the investigation results that Drummond describes seems to suggest an effort on the part of the Chinese government to involve itself in malware and phishing.  Further, one gets the decided impression reading his corporate speak, that he knows there’s far more going on here than he’s telling us. Given the number of phishing emails I see on my servers,  originating from Chinese IP’s, I don’t doubt it for a millisecond.

Again, none of this is a surprise.  When Google moved into China and particularly when they accepted some of the arcane rules of engagement from the Chinese government, as a condition of their doing business in China, I suggest this was going to come up.  I can’t recall ever being so annoyed at the prospect of being proven correct. Dan Riehl [4]describes that aspect well.

At first blush, the Google/China incident much in the news [1] may appear to have little to do with American politics, Barack Obama, or even the Clintons, with their history of financial dealings involving the Chinese. But it does.

Google approached China with the same combination of greed and naivete the liberal mindset approaches everything. What’s in it for us? And how can we all get along, after we cave a bit? The result? Google got played, just as any realist should have expected would be the case.

Dan is quite correct.  Google’s  involvement with China speaks of an extremely naive attitude, unique to western leftists.   The pattern of attempted engagement by Google, here, is remarkably similar to what the White House is doing with Iran, of late. As Dan says, it amounts to agreement by appeasement….”Let’s see if we can’t get along, by caving in”.     I suggest that they’re going to be similarly unsuccessful, and for the same reason.

Google got played like a fiddle and is now licking it’s wounds and trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there while saving face and not losing too much money. If they do manage to grow a spine, and pull out of China, the next logical question is, what other western businesses are willing to follow suit? I consider the chances of reaching critical mass on this very small indeed.  On the other hand, this is as high that particular needle has been on the scale in quite a while.