Google hack raises serious concerns, U.S. says

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton asks the Chinese government for an explanation on the targeted hacking campaign against Google, Adobe, and other companies

A coordinated hacking campaign targeting Google, Adobe Systems, and more than 30 other companies raises serious concerns, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Clinton said that the U.S. government is taking the attack -- which Google said came from China -- very seriously. "We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions," she said. "We look to the Chinese government for an explanation."

[ Is the attack on Google part of a widespread Chinese spying effort? | Analysts say China is certain to block Google.cn if the company starts offering uncensored search results. | Keep up on the day's tech news headlines with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]

Sources familiar with the situation say that more than 30 U.S. companies, including Adobe Systems, were hit by this targeted attack, which Google first discovered in mid-December. Using an attack that exploited an unpatched bug in widely used software, the attackers were able to gain footholds in these companies and siphon out valuable intellectual property.

In Google's case the attackers also gained access information about the e-mail accounts of Chinese dissidents.

While attacks of this nature have hit the military, federal agencies, and government contractors in the past, Google is the first technology company to come forward and acknowledge it has been hit.

Google apparently feels strongly that China is behind the attack because the company said Tuesday that the event helped convince the company that it "should review the feasibility of our business operations in China."

The company now says it will no longer censor search results on Google.cn, a move that could put it out of business in China.

Google's competitor, Yahoo, also condemned the attacks. "We stand aligned with Google that these kinds of attacks are deeply disturbing and strongly believe that the violation of user privacy is something that we as internet pioneers must all oppose," the company said in a statement.

A company spokeswoman declined to say whether or not Yahoo had been hit by the attack as well.

Yahoo doesn't directly do business in China. It sold its Yahoo! China business to Alibaba.com in 2005, but it is a major shareholder in that company.

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