Earlier this month Google revealed that they’d uncovered a series of cyber-attack attempts against U.S. Government officials, U.S. military leaders, Asian political leaders, Chinese activists, and journalists. These attacks happened in the form of “spear phishing” efforts that sent highly personalized messages to the Google accounts of specific users, attempting to get access to secure data. Google announced the issue, the fact that it had been resolved, and that the attacks had originated from within China. That was the limit of what Google said.
What many heard, including those in the Chinese Government, was that the Chinese Government had been making these hacking attempts. Official Chinese publications and statements said it was clear Google was “deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China, and strongly hinting that the hacking attacks were the work of the Chinese government.” This led to accusations that Google had become a political tool for the West – a choice that, according to Chinese publications, would lead to Google being “spurned by the marketplace.”
Many have seen additional implied threats from the Chinese Government, although exactly what sort of punishment or retaliation may occur is hard to say. China has little power over Google since the company withdrew from China in the beginning of 2010 (a decision made due to a series of similar cyber-attacks that happened at that time, as well as an unwillingness to bow down to China’s censorship rules).
But are Google’s statements what they’re describe to be within China (as one Chinese writer puts it, “spurious, have ulterior motives, and bear malign intentions”)? It’s certainly possible that there’s a western slant to the whole ordeal, and it’s true that no proof has been presented that the Chinese Government is the origin of the attacks. Given that Google never claimed they were the origin of attacks, however, the Chinese response seems highly reactive.