Sunday the U.S. Congress and White House's reasons for backing
Google so heartily in its conflict
with the Chinese government over cyber-attacks and internet
freedoms became much clearer.A leaked U.S. diplomatic
global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the
intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese
contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable
reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of
computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private
security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese
government. They have broken into American government computers and
those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since
2002, cables said.
Under Fire: Why Didn't the U.S. Publicly Air its
the information in the cable is to be believed, the central
controlling body of China's government perpetrated what was perhaps
the most serious online attack on a U.S. corporation in our nation's
history. The Politburo of the Communist Party of China,
commonly referred to as the Politburo, is a 24-member council that
controls China's most important decisions.The cyber-attacks
in question were dubbed "Operation Aurora" in the
security community and occurred from mid-2009 through December 2009.
Their highest profile target was Google, who had its "secret
recipe" -- its search engine source code -- stolen. Other
victims of the assault included Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks,
Rackspace, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman and Dow Chemical.But
if the U.S. government had strong evidence to believe that the
Politburo masterminded the attack, why not just come out and say it,
or take action? The answer is likely a combination
of a complex set of factors. First, China owns much of the U.S.
government's debt obligations and is one of the largest trading
partners of the U.S. commercial sector. Economic action against
the nation would be virtually infeasible. Also, the U.S. is
desperately seeking China's cooperation on a number of geopolitical
issues including Korean stability, terrorism in the Middle East, and
global warming.The leaked cable is somewhat embarrassing to
the U.S. government, regardless, given its relative inaction.
It will doubtless increase the East-West tension that exists between
the two global superpowers.And perhaps that's precisely what
the perpetrators of this leak were hoping for.Leaks:
Preventing Wrongdoing, or Espionage?It's
little secret that Wikileaks,
masterminded by convicted cyber-criminal Julian Assange, is no fan of
the U.S. government. Mr. Assange has accused the U.S.
"murdering" innocent Afghani and Iraqi citizens.Over
90 percent the documents aired since 2006 by Wikileaks targeted
the U.S. or its Middle Eastern allies. That percentage
ballooned further on Sunday with the release of 251,287 leaked U.S.
documents, of which the Google-related cables were part of.A
key topic of debate is whether this new leak was truly geared at
preventing wrongdoing or represented an cyber-espionage attack
against the U.S. The newly leaked documents indeed
largely deal with the Middle East, which could lend some support
claims. On the other hand, documents like this one, while
certainly fascinating for the light they cast on the inside of U.S.
foreign policy, seem to have little effect on preventing military
wrongdoing and are more likely to hurt the U.S. financially and
diplomatically.Mr. Assange in his early days in the hacking
community was a vocal proponent of anarchy -- the philosophy that the
world would be better off if its largest governments -- including the
U.S. government -- collapsed. The recent leaks, while damaging
to the U.S. gov't and its diplomatic relationships, aren't likely
damaging enough to achieve such a goal. However, they are
arguably Mr. Assange's most successful attack on the stability U.S.
government yet. And unlike past damage he inflicted on the U.S.
government's credibility, this one seems to have a great deal of meat
that has little to do with the war on terrorism.Adrian Lamo
-- the convicted ex-hacker who turned in Bradley Manning, the young
soldier who leaked these documents -- condemned Wikileaks actions
and called for the U.S. government to be more vigorous in pursuing
charges against the leaks' masterminds, including Mr. Assange.He
writes in a press
co-conspirators reside in districts competent to arrest, prosecute,
and punish these people for their involvement in one of the greatest
breaches of trust in the history of our intelligence community.
[I]t would be irresponsible in the extreme for us to not use all the
tools available to us in bringing them to justice.
Assange resides in Iceland, which has offered him protection from
foreign charges. He is currently wanted on an outstanding
arrest warrant for unrelated
sex crimes charges in Sweden. Wikileaks
was coincidentally the target of
a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack over the weekend.
While it's tempting to suspect that China or the U.S. governments
were responsible for this effort, that ultimately seems less likely.
As Wikileaks aptly
pointed out, it had already passed the cables to news efforts, so
attempts to take down the site would not prevent their release.As
of 10 a.m. EST on Monday the site appeared to be up and responding
normally to requests. Wikileaks is
hosted by a worldwide collection of servers and is blocked in some
nations, including China.