China rejects claims of Internet hacking attacks
BEIJING – The Chinese government denied involvement in Internet attacks and defended its online censorship Monday after the United States urged Beijing to investigate complaints of cyber intrusions in a dispute that has added tension to bilateral relations.
China's policy against Internet hacking attacks is transparent and consistent, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said, nearly two weeks after search giant Google Inc. threatened to pull out of the country after finding that the e-mails of activists had been pried into.
"Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to discredit China," an unidentified ministry spokesman said.
"We are firmly opposed to that," the spokesman said, according to a transcript of an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency posted on the ministry's Web site Monday.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, defended the country's regulation of the Internet, saying it is legal and that other parties should not interfere in Beijing's domestic affairs, Xinhua reported.
The remarks follow a Jan. 12 threat from Google to pull out of China unless the government relented on censorship. The ultimatum came after Google said it had uncovered a computer attack that tried to plunder its software coding and the e-mail accounts of human rights activists protesting Chinese policies.
Google traced the attacks on its computers to hackers in China, but hasn't directly tied them to the Chinese government or its agents.
A Chinese Internet security official questioned Google's allegation that its servers had been attacked by hackers traced to China, saying the search giant had yet to report its complaints to the China National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team.
"We have been hoping that Google will contact us so that we could have details on this issue and provide them help if necessary," Zhou Yonglin, the team's deputy chief of operations, said in an interview with Xinhua, also posted on the Internet security team's Web site.
Most cyber attacks on Chinese computers have originated from the United States, Zhou said, with hackers implanting malicious software such as Trojans, which can allow outside access to the target's computer, to illegally control computers.
Last year, 262,000 Internet protocol addresses — the string of numbers that shows a computer's location — in China were attacked by Trojans planted by nearly 165,000 overseas IP addresses, Zhou said. Most of the attacks were from IP addresses in the U.S., making up 16.6 percent, he said.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesman said China was the biggest victim of Web attacks, and that last year more than 42,000 Web sites were tampered by hackers, while 18 million computers a month were infected by the Conficker worm virus, which can slow computers and steal personal information.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized countries engaging in cyberspace censorship and urged China to investigate computer attacks against Google. In a speech in Washington, Clinton cited China as among a number of countries where there had been "a spike in threats to the free flow of information" over the past year. She also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
China's Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of damaging relations between the countries while a Chinese state newspaper said Washington was imposing "information imperialism" on China.
Internet control is considered a critical matter of state security in China, and Beijing is not expected to offer any concessions in the dispute with Google. Beijing promotes Internet use for commerce, but heavily censors content it deems pornographic, anti-social or politically subversive and blocks many foreign news and social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, and the popular video-sharing site YouTube.
Is it 'High Noon' for Google, China?
Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- Now that the big guns have waded into the public standoff between Google and China, who will be the next to blink?
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made a pointed speech on Internet freedom, while Chinese press have labeled the American search engine "White House's Google."
The tit-for-tat continued Friday, with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs posting a statement slamming Clinton's speech as an inflammatory statement "that goes against truth and damages U.S.-Sino relations."
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Thursday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said "in a reasonably short timeframe now, we will be making some changes" in China.
The public standoff between Google and China -- over censorship rules, the hacking of Chinese dissidents' Gmail accounts and related cyberattacks on dozens of other U.S. companies -- has been unprecedented.
"The fact that multiple very large corporations indicated they had all been victims of this ... and many issued public statements and took a stand, that's not something we've seen before," said Eugene Spafford, a computer security specialist at Purdue University who has advised two U.S. presidents and numerous companies and government agencies.
"The most likely possibility is that Google will actually leave China and lose a few hundred million in revenue," says Haim Mendelson, a professor of electronic business at Stanford Graduate School of Business. "From Google's perspective, it better aligns what they say and what they do."
Another possibility, Mendelson believes, would be a compromise where Google would no longer be required to self-censor search items on the Web -- but Chinese censors could still block controversial topic searches such as those on Tibet dissidents or the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group through routers and local Internet service providers.
"But I can't imagine there will be a compromise because of the impression that it will be yielding to pressure from Google, which is a sign of weakness," Mendelson said.
Both Google and the Chinese government appeared to take steps Thursday to ratchet down the rhetoric in the dispute.
"Our business in China is today unchanged. We continue to follow their laws. We continue to offer censored results," Schmidt said. "We've made a strong statement that we wish to remain in China."
"The Google case should not be linked with relations between the two governments and countries; otherwise, it's an over-interpretation," said He Yafei, China's vice foreign minister, at a press conference on Thursday.
Questions over the origins of the cyber attack -- and whether it was directed by the Chinese government -- are the most troubling of the case, Spafford said.
"Are they private citizens acting out of patriotism? Is it government operated? Or government tolerated?" Spafford said. "From Google's point of view, it could be argued the Chinese government isn't reining in their criminal element very well, even if they are living by the rules (in operating in China)."
Yeah, no one saw this one coming.
There's a difference between random hackers trying to hack into computers and the Chinese government trying to hack into corporations. No, Google hasn't said, but VeriSign's iDefense came out and said, point-blank, that it was China.
Also, I am amused--and by 'amused' I mean my eyes keep rolling--at China making "this is between Google and China and third parties (ie , the US government) should stay out" statments when they have been calling Google "White House's Google."
An interesting editorial on the security problems that led to the hacking and how they are built at the requests of governments is here: U.S. enables Chinese hacking of Google (not included here because this post is getting long and since it's an editorial.)
Edit - Proof Google seems to be serious:
Google Prepares for Its Next Steps in China - Internet Giant Delays Plans to Release New Android Cellphones Amid Standoff With Beijing