Foreign and Military Affairs

Military not linked to attacks on Google

By Ai Yang in Beijing and Ju Chuanjiang in Shandong (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-20 08:14
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Experts, educators also dismiss reports of schools' involvement

Senior Chinese military experts and educators on Friday dismissed new reports of investigations that suggest previous cyber attacks on Internet search giant Google were linked to Chinese schools and the military.

In a Thursday report, The New York Times (NYT) linked two Chinese educational institutions - Lanxiang Vocational School based in Jinan, Shandong province and Shanghai Jiaotong University - to the online attacks that also targeted American corporations.

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The newspaper also cited Lanxiang's ties with the Chinese military and Baidu, the major Chinese online search engine and Google competitor.

Google jolted Sino-US ties with its Jan 12 announcement that it had faced a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" in mid-December that allegedly originated from inside China.

Pan Zheng, a senior expert in US strategy at National Defense University, told China Daily the Google attacks "had nothing to do with the Chinese government and military".

Pan said the search engine's accusation is inadequate. "Even if the hacking location was confirmed to be inside China, it is still different from saying the attacks are backed by China."

The NYT report also said that "if supported by further investigation, the findings raise as many questions as they answer, including the possibility that some of the attacks came from China but not necessarily from the Chinese government, or even from Chinese sources".

Major General Luo Yuan, who is with the Academy of Military Sciences, said that allegations linking the attacks with the Chinese government and military are irresponsible.

"China has on many occasions reiterated that it opposes hackings of any form and such activities are strictly prohibited by law. Its military would not go against the rules," Luo said.

"People can easily take advantage of a location, they use it as their disguise and divert attention elsewhere, to a supposedly more apparent direction."

The NYT reported an assumption that the vocational school is being used as "camouflage for government operations". But it also reported that it is possible "the schools were cover for false flag intelligence operation being run by a third country".

A number of people in the computer security industry and the Obama administration have reportedly preferred the first assumption, while other industry executives and former government officials have inclined toward the second view.

A leading professor from the school of information security engineering in Shanghai Jiaotong University told the NYT in a phone interview that the findings were not surprising as students hacking into overseas websites is usual.

But the unnamed professor also said such "wrongdoing" was not malicious in motive but simply that of students testing out their Internet abilities.

The university's IP address could also have been hijacked by a third party, something that happens frequently, the professor said.

Lanxiang Vocational School's spokeswoman, surnamed Zhou, also refuted the allegations of her institution's involvement with the Chinese military.

"Such speculation is ridiculous," Zhou told China Daily on Friday. "Our school does not have any ties with the military at all. I have received so many calls today asking me about some Google attacks and I think it's totally bizarre how we, as a local institution training junior school-level students, can be linked to it."

The school only provides basic computer training such as picture design, she said.

"We do not have any contracts or agreement whatsoever with the military."