Attacks may have started much earlier than though

The internet is rife with crime and theft of all types. Some nefarious users steal passwords to social networking sites and online games while some go after corporate and government secrets. One of the most publicized cyber attacks in recent memory was perpetrated against Google last year.

Google announced in January that its corporate network had been attacked and that Gmail accounts of activists who spoke out against the Chinese government were targeted. Google also revealed that the attacks resulted in the theft of IP and the search giant went so far as to threaten to leave the Chinese search market. The attacks allegedly occurred from within China and led to a confrontation between the Chinese government, Google, and the U.S. government.

The Chinese government has long maintained that it does not approve or condone cyber attacks and hacking within its country. A Chinese official said, "[China] bans using the Internet to subvert state power and wreck national unity, to incite ethnic hatred and division, to promote cults and to distribute content that is pornographic, salacious, violent or terrorist. China has an ample legal basis for punishing such harmful content, and there is no room for doubting this. This is completely different from so-called restriction of Internet freedom."

Reuters reports that a probe of the attacks against Google and 20 other U.S. businesses has pointed to a pair of Chinese schools as the originating point of the attacks. Sources close to the investigation told the New York Times that the probes have found that the Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Lanxiang Vocational School in China were the source of the attacks.

The evidence has linked a computer science class at the vocational school to the attacks. The class is taught by a professor from the Ukraine. The probe has also found that the attacks may have started as early as April of 2009, which is much earlier than the attacks were believed to have been launched. Google would only say that its investigation was ongoing and offered no comment.

No comment was offered from either of the Chinese schools.

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