Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A new approach to China

(cross-posted from Official Google Blog)

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. 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.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of US-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People interested wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks, can read this U.S. government report, Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.


H said...

I hope chinese govt openly agrees to your demands of providing unfiltered information and hope that google.cn is not shutdown. All the best.

HVH said...

I may just forgive you adorable geeks. Remember, you do have power, even in the face of the ever burgeoning world power of Red China, and still have resources left to take on the iPhone.

Tim Halberg said...

props to google for standing up and taking action.

boo on China for being lame and shady

kgvs72 said...

Props to Google for standing up against a government.


I have a lot of respect for Google's corporate ethics. I have always found its policy towards China to be a contradiction of its general commitments to freedom of information. I am ecstatic that Google is trying to bring its China policy in line with its principles. Hooray for google.

rmuro said...

Congratulations to Google for support of web based human rights in China!

Would that more companies took this type of approach.

Jeff007s said...

I am currently working on a thesis on how the Internet affects and improves governance in China. This is the largest and best step by any non-Chinese actor taken so far.

Hopefully U.S. domestic support for this move is strong enough to push other corporations to follow suit (I am looking at you Microsoft).

It doesn't look good. Just look what Microsoft did late last year:


xuxu said...

God, this message is going to killing me!

Nickname unavailable said...

Thank you Google for walking the walk with...do no evil. You have renewed my faith in Google and the outlook for your company.

Freedom of speech and the sharing of God given creativity and ideas are inalienable rights. Helping suppress and take away or threaten those rights is clearly evil.

I'd suggest further that it would be very good to see Google or another party develop a knoppix like CD-Rom that could not be infected by Malware. This CD might allow a non-technical user to securely and anonymously attach to a server in the cloud and share ideas without the ability to be tracked, browse, etc. The ultimate thin client or net client that could be used by students and dissidents alike.

Gareth said...

What? Google is surprised? They have been sucking communist party dxck for how long?? At some point they were always going to blow their load on your face google, and you fell for it.

Isaac said...

Will Google take a similar stance in Australia when the government installs a similar filter to China later this year?

A S said...

This is a welcome development. However, a few questions persist: When will Google stop censoring in other countries? Will it take a cyber attack by the government of a country for Google to stop censoring in that country? What about not censoring because it's the right thing to do? Because that is what freedom of speech is all about?

LL_Science_Teach said...

Thank you, Google, for finally realizing human freedom has higher value than any amount of money in the world.

egb said...

Excellent choice. The original choice to respect the culture of a country is a difficult one, but credible if the country is honest and forthright. China apparently believes that any means to an end is justifiable including lying and stealing.

Google should be congratulated on their original decision to respect the culture of a country and congratulated again on changing the rules in the face of dishonesty and criminal behavior. I support your decisions.

myronw said...

If I run a Google Search for [china news] the first page of search results returns four sites McAfee says are unsafe yet there is no similar indication from Google.


Birgit said...

a brave and intelligent decision - congratulations!

Birgit said...

a brave and intelligent decision - congratulation!

Mike Kallet said...

GO GOOGLE! Glad to see you're standing up for values and freedom. China is huge, opportunity there is huge, but at what cost. Whether you love or hate Google, EVERYONE SHOULD SUPPORT YOU HERE !!!
Buy Google Stock
Shake the hand of a Google Employee
Write something good about Google
Use Google search as much as you can and click on links
Buy something from Google


Jesse Cuellar said...

I overwhelmingly agree with Google’s stance regarding their policy of freedom of information, privacy of its users and a commitment to its company’s values without regard to borders. Bravo Google, I support your move.

jjhare said...

good to see google doing the right thing. maybe that "don't be evil" bit actually means something. it certainly is interesting that google would give up on one of the biggest and fastest-growing marketplaces for search on principle. i thought American corporations didn't care about principle...

Doood. said...

Good for you. You've earned more of my respect as a customer by making this decision.

zelrik said...

@AS : There is an order of magnitude difference between mild censoring and the great firewall of China, at least from my perspective, let me know if you disagree. It's a matter of how much Google can put up with governments VS how much money they'd get.

For that particular issue, it s not just about censoring but also about personal attacks to Human Rights activists.

I dont see Microsoft doing the same thing, they are far more 'pragmatic' and would do anything the govts request to gain a few more $. Which might be why they mentioned that they didnt get such attacks on their services.

Jeremy said...

Thank you, Google, for making an honorable decision.

I understand why you were willing to filter chinese search rights in 2006, when you started offering searches. I think you were correct to understand the world not as a place full of black and white moralities, but as full of complex decisions. You weighed your options, and decided that it would be in the best options of both your company and the people of China to filter results.

I think you are also correct in your new course of action. Active, thoughtful, nationalistic attacks coming from China should not be tolerated.

China needs to know that their actions have consequences, and that their actions will not go unnoticed. I heartily applaud your decisions. Thank you, Google.

TN said...

Any loss in revenues from this move in China will probably be recuperated from the enhancement of the Google brand elsewhere. Kudos to Google.

julie g. said...

Thanks, Google!!!

JetCityOrange said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here's my Open Letter to Google re: Chinese Censorship.

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Andrew said...

I applaud Google for standing up to the Communist government of China, who over the past several decades have killed millions of Chinese and keep much of the public in the dark about very important world issues today. WAY-TO-GO! However, I find it INCREDIBLY ironic that Google refuses to say "Merry Christmas" on their search engine front page, even just on Christmas day. Every other obscure and well-known person and holiday gets a mention. Sensorship double standard? No "Merry Christmas" for anybody? That's in-your-face sensorshp that is truly not welcome by many in the west. Google, please look within on this issue.

Ruan said...

Yay Google! Glad to see Larry and Sergey are sticking to their principles - it really makes me proud to be a google user (and a human being)
Thank you guys!

Ruan said...

Yay Google! Glad to see Larry and Sergey are sticking to their principles - it really makes me proud to be a google user (and a human being)
Thank you guys!

jinyingshanghaitrade said...

actually leaving is biggest failure.Only stay got chance to fight with chinese govn to the end.Lots lots of chinese people who back up google spirit need you.stay.if even you leave,how could they....

MrBadger42 said...

I want to congratulate Google on their choice to push back at the abuse of the Internet by the Chinese government. You have restored at least part of the high esteem that I lost when you chose to allow censorship several years back. In the long run, if you stick to your guns, I believe you will find that doing the right thing pays.

nicholas said...

If google is on the moral high ground over china, it might be a good time to review how you record the china/india international boundary on google maps.
At the moment it is marked with a dotted line(a state boundary) Leaving it ambiguous as to whether the indian states of arunachal pradesh and assam belong to china or india. Whilst china does have its eye on territorial expansion in this area it does google no good to be seen to support this. The 2 states i mentioned remain entirely indian and your map should show this without ambiguity.

May KUO said...

Is the rumor saying that Google has been hacked not from outside web but from the inside employer true? I wonder if the very last paragraph indicating the decision is made solely by directors in US is intended to protect other employers in China who reveal or discover the existence of hacker. Will this page give any feedback about the rumor (or uncovered truth)?

Julie said...

Stand firm google. Fight the good fight!

youth4EarthCare said...

Any attempt to undermine Civil Rights by any country , or regime should be abhorred. And, the decision of Google Inc, is upright.

In the Information Age, Information is power. And, China is disallowing that, by it's official mandates and other tactics.
Thus , the Mesage goes , " China s no longer fit to partner the age of knowlege, Information society'.

Aubrey said...

Thank you Google. Thanks for standing strong and honest.