China denies involvement in Gmail hack
BEIJING denied it supported hacking activities and said yesterday it was part of global efforts to combat computer security threats, a day after Google disclosed some of its e-mail users suffered hacking attacks that originated within China.
Google disclosed on Wednesday that personal Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including senior US government officials, military personnel and political activists, had been breached.
Google traced the origin of the attacks to Jinan, the home city of a military vocational school whose computers were linked to an assault 17 months ago on Google’s systems.
China was firmly opposed to activities that sabotaged internet and computer security, including hacking, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday. He added that hacking was a global problem and Chinese networks had also been targeted by hackers, but he gave no specifics.
Hong said China was working to crack down on the problem, but he did not respond when asked whether it would investigate this specific incident. “Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives,” he said.
Google said all of the hacking victims had been notified and their accounts had been secured. This time around, the hackers appeared to rely on tactics commonly used to fool people into believing they are dealing with someone they know or a company that they trust. Once these “phishing” expeditions get the information needed to break into an e-mail account, the access can be used to send messages that dupe other victims.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which helps regulate the internet, referred questions about the allegations to the State Council Information Office, which asked that questions be faxed and then did not respond.
The latest attacks are not believed to be tied to the more sophisticated assault last year.
That intrusion targeted Google’s security systems and triggered a high-profile battle with China’s government over online censorship.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency blasted Google in an unsigned commentary yesterday saying the company’s complaints had “become obstacles for enhancing global trust between stakeholders in cyberspace”.