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China Slams Google's "Groundless Accuses" and "Chimerical Complaints"

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It was announced yesterday that hundreds of gmail passwords were stolen and used to access the private email accounts of, according to the official Google blog, "senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists."

Google reports that it "detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities."

The FBI is now investigating the cyber attack, which Eric Grosse, the engineer who heads up Google's security team, says originated in Jinan, China -- a city the Seattle Post-Intelligencer points out is "home to site of the country's version of the National Security Agency as well as a top military vocational academy whose computers were linked to a serious attack last year on the computer systems of major American companies, including Google."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the Obama administration views the incident as "very serious" though White House spokesman Jay Carney maintains no "official US government email accounts" were accessed.

While the powers that be in Washington are obviously troubled by this development, Xinhua, China's state-run news service, doth protest just a tad too much.

In a response to Google's allegations posted on the Xinhua website, titled "Google's groundless accuses hurt global trust on Internet," the country's official organ comes out swinging:

Again, Google complained about China undermining its cyberspace service. Just as its previous accusations, the world's largest Internet search engine provided no solid proof to support its statement.

In a blog post updated on Wednesday, Google said a clandestine campaign originating in China targeted some users of Gmail, its e-mail service, aiming at stealing passwords and monitoring e-mail accounts.

It was the second time that Google arbitrarily pointed its finger at China. Last year, Google groundlessly accused the Chinese government of supporting hacker attack against it and pushed China to abandon legal regulations on the Internet by threatening to withdraw from the Chinese market.

The chimerical complaints by Google have become obstacles for enhancing global trust between stakeholders in cyberspace.

The statement goes on to say that "it is not appropriate for Google, a profit-first business, to act as an Internet judge."

"Google has not always followed business ethics as it says," the piece continues. "The American media reported in mid-May that Google had not been vigilant about policing online pharmaceutical advertisements because they are so lucrative. As a result, the Internet search leader distributed online advertisements from illegal pharmacies.

"It is a real pity that Google's baseless complaints have distress (sic) mutual trust and the efforts to establish new global governance in cyberspace, letting real online criminals obtain illegal profits without being punished."

It wouldn't be the world's wildest surprise to learn that China was indeed behind the hack.

In a July, 2010 interview with NPR,
Alan Paller of the non-profit SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security) Institute outside Washington, pointed out:

"Every military district of the Peoples' Liberation Army runs a competition every spring, and they search for kids who might have gotten caught hacking. ... [We found one of the winners] hacking into the Pentagon. So they find them, they train them, and they get them into operation very, very fast."

This is one reason why Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III says the DoD now recognizes cyberspace as “a new and official warfare domain,” joining the ranks of air, land, sea, and space, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says cyber attacks constitute a "huge future threat" and "a considerable current threat," and CIA Director Leon Panetta believes "the potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber attack."

At February's RSA computer security conference in San Francisco, Lynn warned, "The threat is moving up a ladder of escalation, from exploitation to disruption to destruction,” and is fully aware that “a couple dozen talented programmers wearing flip-flops and drinking Red Bull can do a lot of damage,” and that “we have to assume that if they have the means to strike, they will do so."

Others believe the threat is being overstated.

"There's quite a lot in it, but they're also extensively hyped,” said Professor Peter Sommer of the London School of Economics on the warnings on cyber warfare. "In terms of the involvement of the big military companies, you have to realize that they are finding it extremely difficult to sell big, heavy equipment of the sort they are used to because the type of wars that we're involved in tend to be against insurgents. And so they are desperately looking for new product areas -- and the obvious product area, they think, is cyber warfare -- I'm not so sure about that."

White House cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt has said he believes "Cyber war is a terrible metaphor”, but whether or not that happens to be the case is germane to few people other than English professors and armchair linguists. McAfee estimates that about 120 countries are using the Internet for state-sponsored information operations, primarily espionage.

The challenge involved here requires an “all hands on deck” approach, which means, in Secretary Lynn’s words, pursuing “several avenues of industry-government cooperation.”

Noting that it takes the Pentagon 81 months to develop a new computer system while the iPhone was developed in 24 months, Lynn realizes this is “less time than it takes us to prepare a budget and receive Congressional approval for it. This means I get permission to start a project at the same time Steve Jobs is talking on his new iPhone. It's not a fair trade. We have to close this gap. Silicon Valley can help us," he said.

It can -- as long as it's able to keep Chinese hackers from reading Mr. Lynn's personal emails.
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