Google said its email service is the target of a sophisticated attack by the Chinese government.
Seeing what's happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa must have the officials of the Chinese government pretty freaked out that a similar revolution might overthrow the last Communist superpower. Since Google began operating in China in 2005, the company has had a contentious relationship with the government as it demanded Google cooperate in censoring its people. This January, Google became aware of attacks on its services, and moved its operations to Hong Kong in response. Now, Google has been noticing some irregularities in its email service for human rights activists in China, and the company believes that Gmail is under attack by the government in order to throttle any possible "jasmine revolution" - a burgeoning online movement to overthrow the Chinese government inspired by events in Egypt and Libya.
"Relating to Google there is no issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail," said a spokesman from Google.
On March 11th, Google said on its blog that it believed something fishy was going on when it "noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users. We believe activists may have been a specific target." After working with Microsoft to fix a possible exploit with Internet Explorer, Google now believes that the only entity capable of such a targeted attack is the government of China.
Technology experts have weighed in that the difficulty of detecting the source of the attack was carefully designed. "In the wake of what is happening in the Middle East I don't think China wants to be seen making heavy-handed attacks on the internet, that would draw too much attention," said an unnamed internet executive.
China is notorious for censoring and controlling information, and that policy has extended on the internet. Any revolutionary news of the events in Middle East and North Africa or mention of the Dalai Lama of nearby Tibet is not permissible. Even the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan is considered dangerous to the State. An effort organized by Google to help family members find lost loved ones has been shut down in China.
Given the revolutions of long-standing dictatorships this year all over the world, and the role that communication over the internet has served in these uprisings, it certainly makes sense for China to be wary of Google. But in a Catch-22, censorship is exactly why these dissidents and revolutionaries are motivating and the latest heavy-handedness by the Chinese government to smite Gmail might actually be the superpower's undoing.
I might take a little censorship here and there, but if you mess with my Gmail, I'm gonna throw a brick through a window.
Source: The Guardian