2010 January 14 Thursday
Over 30 Companies Targeted In Chinese Attack

The Google-China flap is turning out to be about more than Google.

More than 30 companies were attacked simultaneously through an undiscovered software security hole. The incursions appear to have had the blessing of the Chinese government, if not its direct involvement.

Royalty in Europe used to support the depradations of pirates against rival states. This seems like a modern parallel.

Last year a cyber attack took place against a larger number of companies.

The concerted assault also bears similarities to one on 100 companies last year, according to security experts at iDefense. So it shouldn’t be dismissed as a one-off or rogue operation.

Google managed to get into a computer in Taiwan from which attacks were launched.

It managed to gain access to a computer in Taiwan that it suspected of being the source of the attacks. Peering inside that machine, company engineers actually saw evidence of the aftermath of the attacks, not only at Google, but also at at least 33 other companies, including Adobe Systems, Northrop Grumman and Juniper Networks, according to a government consultant who has spoken with the investigators.

Were all these other companies oblivious to the attacks before smart engineers at Google figured it out?

The Googlers aren't clear as to the motives for the attack. My guess: multiple goals. Go after dissidents. Steal technological secrets. Get insights into political and commercial competitors.

Besides being unable to firmly establish the source of the attacks, Google investigators have been unable to determine the goal: to gain commercial advantage; insert spyware; break into the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents and American experts on China who frequently exchange e-mail messages with administration officials; or all three. In fact, at least one prominent Washington research organization with close ties to administration officials was among those hacked, according to one person familiar with the episode.

China is going to become the most powerful nation in the world. My advice: Do not create online accounts with Chinese companies.

The Washington Post has a piece that dwells on the diplomatic angle.

The United States has until now addressed cyberattacks "separately from diplomatic relations" with China and other countries, "but increasingly, this is more and more difficult to do," said Susan Shirk, a China expert at the University of California at San Diego. "So it's definitely complicating foreign policy relations in that sense."

Rob Knake, a cybersecurity expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said that a "reluctance" to raise the issue of Internet censorship with China "is no longer a tenable position."

The Chinese government still has deniability. Good luck with those diplomatic protests. I'm sure the Chinese will file those protests the same place as they file protests against currency rate fixing and other mercantilist practices.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 January 14 11:28 PM  China

Pinkerton said at January 15, 2010 12:59 AM:

"I'm sure the Chinese will file those protests the same place as they file protests against currency rate fixing and other mercantilist practices."

Not defending the Chinese, but the US is engaged in currency rate "fixing" and mercantilism as well, and is arguably one of the biggest if not the biggest practitioner.

Unless the US abolishes the Federal Reserve it will continue to be engaged in currency rate "fixing" basically any time it does anything, such as conduct Open Market operations, change rates, etc.

As far as mercantilism goes, the Chinese government pursues trade surpluses to maximize its reserves. The US government is basically an extended phenotype of certain groups and financial and other interests, and it serves to maximize the "reserves" or net assets of said groups. The fact that it doesn't pursue trade surpluses in order to do so doesn't mean that it's not engaged in "mercantilism." Remember, we're not on a gold standard and haven't been on one for some time. The dollar has been/is the world's reserve currency. It's created here, through our financial system. So the "gold" that the mercantilists are trying to capture is created here, through our financial system. It's not like a gold standard where there's a basically fixed supply of gold "out there" that you can only really get by running trade surpluses (aside from outright conquest and seizure).

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