Google is investigating possible insider assistance

China has been found numerous times to be the source of cyber attacks against both the U.S. government and U.S.-based companies. The latest such attack was perpetrated against search giant Google and was carried out in mid-December 2009.

Google has acknowledged that the attack resulted in theft of IP and source code. Reports have surfaced that claim Google is considering leaving the Chinese market due to the theft of the IP and because its Gmail accounts are being repeatedly targeted by hackers. Google has reported that the accounts of human rights activists in China and the accounts of tech companies are most often targeted.

Google Chief Legal Counsel David Drummond said when Google announced the attack, "In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different."

Since the attacks, the relationship between Google and the Chinese government has continued to deteriorate with Google announcing that it would uncensor all searches on its Chinese website. The Chinese government issued a thinly veiled response saying that it welcomed all internet firms that follow its laws.

New information surfaced that lays some of the blame for the attacks at Microsoft's feet. A memory flaw in Internet Explorer was reportedly exploited in attacks against Google and other firms including Adobe.

Reuters reports today that Google is probing the attacks and is considering that the attackers might have had insider assistance from Google employees. The attacks targeted specific employees that had access to very specific parts of the Google network.

The attackers used a trojan that was a modified version of Hydraq. Security analysts say the sophistication of the attacks wasn't in the method of attack used, but that the attackers knew exactly what people inside Google to target with the attacks.

A Google spokesperson said, "We're not commenting on rumor and speculation. This is an ongoing investigation, and we simply cannot comment on the details."

Chinese media citing sources within Google report that some Google China workers were cut off from access to internal networks after January 13 and some staff were put on leave. More staff members at the Google China offices were transferred to other offices within the Google Asia Pacific area.

Reuters reports that Google is also set to have talks with the Chinese government in the next few days. The talks are sure to focus on Google's plan to uncensor search results and the attacks on its networks. The U.S. government is getting involved in the search for answers to how the attack on Google's networks happened. A diplomatic note has reportedly been sent to China from Washington asking for an explanation on the December attacks against Google.

Google only said about the talks, "We are going to have talks with them [Chinese government] in the coming few days."

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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