WHILE A HACKING ATTACK on Google was seized upon as proof that we need more Internet protection from China, it is starting to look like it might have been students rather than a reds under beds Communist plot.
The Associated Press reports that the Internet attacks originated from two schools in the Middle Kingdom. Security investigators traced the hacking to computers at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School.
Google had chucked its toys out of the pram over the hacks and threatened to withdraw from China if the authorities did not stop hacking it and requiring it to censor its operations.
Apparently the reason for this was a January 12 attack where digital thieves had stolen some of its computer code and tried to break into the accounts of human rights activists opposed to China government policies. It claimed that the "sophisticated theft" also targeted the computers of more than 30 other companies.
However the attack was based on a security weakness in Microsoft's Internet Exploder and the hackers apparently might not have gotten what they wanted.
China's government has denied any involvement while continuing to insist publicly that Google must obey its restrictions against showing links deemed to be subversive or pornographic.
The US National Security Agency and other specialists in digital forensics have been trying to identify the source of the attacks against Google and the other companies for weeks. The inquiry led to computers at the two schools, with some evidence suggesting the attacks may have started 10 months ago.
It is starting to look like the attacks might not have been government inspired. Like similar attacks thought to have been carried out by the Russian government against Georgia and Estonia, it is possible that they were carried out by students simply flexing their skills or ideologically motivated nationalistic hackers working on their own initiative.
It has never been explained by Google, or the US government which rushed to back it, why it reacted in such a way against China over a limited hacking incident. Our theory is that it is all a cunning plan to force through more defence spending on Internet security and give the executive branch, the military and the spooks more control over the Internet in the US. We are still not sure what Google gets out of it though. Perhaps it wants a seat at the table when it comes to Internet control. µ
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