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Google Attacks Came From Chinese Schools: Report

February 19, 2010

Recent Internet attacks against Google’s email service have been pinpointed to two prominent schools in China, according to a story published by the New York Times late Thursday.

Security investigators followed the digital fingerprints which led them to computers at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School in China. The newspaper attributed the information to an unnamed source involved in the investigation.

Google revealed on January 12 that hackers stole computer codes and tried to break into the accounts of human rights activists opposed to China’s policies. The attacks were also launched against more than 30 other online companies, security experts said. A leak in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser is believed to have allowed for the cyber criminals to infiltrate the system.

Due to the seriousness of the online assault, Google confronted the Chinese government about censorship rules that remove political and cultural material from search results that the country feels may be too sensitive. Google is threatening to shut down its China-based search engine and all of its offices in the country unless China loosens its restrictions on free speech.

As of Thursday, Google and the Chinese government are still discussing a possible compromise.

Speculation arose over the Chinese government’s involvement in the debacle when Google threatened to pull its online tool from China. Google has never accused the government of any involvement, only saying that they believed the attack originated from within China. The government has denied having any involvement in the attacks.

Google has been working with US intelligence agencies to investigate the attacks, which were described as bearing the marks of high-level espionage. Jill Hazelbaker, Google’s director of corporate communications said that the company’s investigation is ongoing, but otherwise declined to comment. According to the report, investigators believe there is evidence suggesting a link to a computer science class at the vocational school taught by a Ukrainian professor.

Both Chinese schools have popular science programs. Jiaotong University’s computer science program is said to be the best in the country, and Lanxiang Vocational School has been known to train computer scientists for the Chinese military, the New York Times said.

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