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China cyber attacks: Google only one of many US targets

Google says cyber attacks originating in China targeted 'our corporate infrastructure.' Cyber attacks from China have hit a number of US industries, leading some experts to suggest that the Chinese government could be involved.

Visitors take pictures outside the Google China headquarters in Beijing, Wednesday.

Vincent Thian/AP

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Google’s announcement that it may withdraw from China was based not solely on Chinese cyberattacks on dissidents’ Gmail accounts and free-speech concerns, but also on “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China,” it said.

The attack, the company said in a statement, “resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google.” It was also part of a much larger pattern of attacks that sought to steal key proprietary data from many other companies and industries, it said.

News reports suggest Google’s “source code” may have been a target.

“This attack was not just on Google, the company said in its Jan. 12 statement. “We have discovered that at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of businesses – including the Internet, finance, technology, media, and chemical sectors – have been similarly targeted.”

Those similar attacks were outlined in two recent reports cited by Google.

• A US government report issued in October suggests a global pattern in which Chinese “state-sponsored” hackers steal proprietary data that might help that nation’s indigenous industries.

• A report by Canadian researchers documents a global cyberespionage network harvesting data apparently set up to aid Chinese authorities in their fight against dissidents.

Are the attacks 'state sponsored'?

Such findings raise larger questions. If Google with all its cyber-resources and expertise is worried about keeping cyberspies out of its crown jewels – its source code – can other Fortune 500 companies reasonably expect to protect theirs?

Are the attacks on Google and others really “state sponsored” – or done at least with the complicity of Chinese authorities if not explicitly directed by them?

China and Russia have become a suspect in several recent major cyberattacks, with both known to have large communities of hackers and computer security experts, cyberexperts say.


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