A Chinese cyber-assault on Google and more than 30 other U.S. companies was the most sophisticated online attack ever seen outside of the defense industry, according to experts from anti-virus firm McAfee interviewed by Wired. Google announced on Tuesday that it would no longer censor information on its search portal per Chinese government rules, and may stop doing business in China entirely.
The Chinese hackers targeted Gmail accounts of human rights activists and stole intellectual property from Google, but also struck U.S. companies such as software maker Adobe. The Guardian reports that Verisign’s iDefense Labs, a U.S. security firm, has traced the attacks back to the Chinese government or entities acting on behalf of the government. The Chinese government responded by saying that it prohibits cyber-attacks and welcomes international Internet companies.
Another target of the attacks was a Los Angeles law firm involved in a legal dispute over China’s “Green Dam” censorship software, PC World notes. Gipson Hoffman & Pancione launched a $2.2 billion lawsuit that claims Green Dam stole lines of code from parental control software developed by the U.S. company Cybersitter.
China’s government initially attempted to distribute the Green Dam software on all computers, but has since backed off and only requires the software in schools and Internet cafes.
The U.S. may find itself playing catch-up in this era of 21st-century cyber-war. The White House only recently named a cybersecurity coordinator to oversee the nation’s Internet defense, and launched a U.S. Cyber Command just last October. But all nations should be wary of a future where they find themselves fighting a faceless army of netizens bent on cyber attacks in the name of patriotism or criminal profit.