Google has been up to making empty allegations against China since it decided to withdraw last year. In its latest salvo, it accused the Chinese government of a phishing attack on Gmail accounts. As predicted, such allegations are spreading like wild fire in the Western media. In fact, the innuendos are narrated into facts, and it is always amazing to see how this propaganda machinery works.
It claimed the phishing attacks “appears to originate from Jinan, China.” The Lanxiang Vocations School which was at the center of Google’s last year claim of Gmail attacks is also in Jinan. Apparently, the hairdressing students at Lanxiang no longer find this spotlight funny.
Here’s what we know: Mila Parkour, the Washington-based IT specialist at the security specialists Contagio Malware Dump who first spotted the attacks three months ago, and wrote about it here, documented a series of attacks from various locations. These also included Korea and New York.
This has some other experts asking questions, including Mary Landesman, a respected senior security researcher at Cisco. I called her up to ask her point of view of the attacks, and she pointed out that the Contagio documentation alone is not enough to pinpoint Jinan as the source.
“The Jinan, China connection seems to be coming from fact that some phishing emails were sent through 163.com,” she says, “but if that’s evidence, then I think it’s worth questioning. That’s a funny email for cyber [activity].” The domain 163.com may be based in Jinan, but that doesn’t mean that’s where the attack really originated.
By way of explanation, if someone sends a phishing attack through a Gmail account, that doesn’t mean that the attack originated from Mountain View, California (the home of Google, which owns Gmail), she said.
It is rather mind boggling, because this was basically what Google said (“Jinan, China” my emphasis):
Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems*, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists.
Google used the words ‘appears’ and ‘seem’ to qualify their innuendos, because it knows in case the real truth is revealed and the Chinese are not actually involved, then they have a fall-back position. But it also knows what the Western media will do with this short little paragraph. I thought it pretty funny why the Western media doesn’t bother to go to Lanxiang Vocational School and do some real reporting.
As predicted, the Western media parrots each other with the same narrative; concludes with innuendos and he said she said, while leaving out crucial facts:
1. Google offered no conclusive evidence the attacks came from China, but, Wyatt Andrews of CBS on June 2, 2011 headlines:
“China Google hackers’ goal: Spying on U.S. Govt.”
2. The New York Times in a he said she said piece on June 2, 2011 by JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID BARBOZA:
“F.B.I. to Investigate Gmail Attacks Said to Come From China”
In this article, the New York Times also talked about Mila Parkour, but completely ignored facts in her report where the attacks also traced to South Korea and New York! Remember what Mary Landesman, a respected senior security researcher at Cisco, said to Matt Marshall, tracing the attacks to the 163.com domain only proves that Jinan was a ‘stop.’ A hacker could have taken over a computer in Jinan from Washington, D.C., or anywhere else on the planet. In turn, it could be a dozen or more hops before we find the real hacker.
3. In the BBC, it also did a he said she said on June 1, 2011 and took Google’s innuendos to conclusion:
In Washington, the BBC’s Adam Brookes says it is extremely difficult for analysts to determine whether governments or individuals are responsible for such attacks.
Wait a minute! There is no conclusive evidence the hackers were physically from Jinan, China. How can it become the basis of an accusation of either the government or individuals in China?
4. Fox News on June 2, 2011 reports:
Suspected Chinese hackers tried to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email account holders, including those of senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists, the Internet company said.
Fox News might want to add ‘suspected American hackers’ and ‘suspected Korean hackers’ in that report.
The Chinese government has publicly rebuked Google’s allegations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters:
Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives.
In my opinion, Google has basically given up on the Chinese market. The analysis I have done is exactly how the Chinese feel towards Google. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei couldn’t have summarized the sentiment any better. Frankly, what rational people, upon consideration of the real facts, wouldn’t draw this conclusion about Google?
Many of you who have been active on this blog know that we have written quite a bit about Google. (Click on the Google topic at the top of this blog to see ‘Google‘ articles.) The company is constantly battling justice systems around the world and dealing with myriad of contentious issues.
Google has found alliance with the current U.S. foreign policy of ‘Internet freedom.’ The U.S. government wants to push ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘human rights’ ideologies unfettered. It wants to do this over the Internet. Google on the other hand wants to pull users from around the globe to its Internet services. The bigger Google, Facebook, and Twitter become, the more powerful they are as channels for the U.S. government.
By the way, this is no secret – the Obama administration has recently announced terminating Voice of America broadcasts into China in favor of leveraging the Internet more to accomplish VOA’s intended purpose.
Not that long ago, Jon Huntsman opened Sina Weibo to try to reach Chinese netizens with U.S. ideology, but was shut down.
Google probably sees China (and other nations, maybe in growing numbers) with her firewall as the single biggest stumbling block in terms of market access. People will rightly point out that Google could drop its ideological nonsense and comply with Chinese law, and it would be competing in China just as are Microsoft and Yahoo still today.
Now that Schmidt is out and having read Brin’s past remarks, I am not surprised at all with Google trying to smear China; it wants to undermine the government there to get rid of its firewall. At the company, it probably believes sharing bed with the world’s most powerful government and breeding ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘human rights’ is the best way to gain market access around the globe.
Google should realize that Western ideological pretensions have long been exposed. Perhaps Brin is still young and naive. Or perhaps he is brilliant and know that it is impossible for his company to win against the rest of the world, and thus forcing the rest of the world to accept Google given all of the company’s head start is the best way to go.
The first gamble backfired with the company leaving China.
With this incident, it appears the company has gone down the slippery slope further. I expect there will be many countries around the globe wanting to protect themselves, and just maybe, copy China’s firewall to filter propaganda.