Leaked US document links China to Google attack

An unnamed source told the U.S. that China was behind the attacks, according to a cable leaked by WikiLeaks

The cache of more than 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables that WikiLeaks began releasing on Sunday includes a document linking China's Politburo to the December 2009 hack of Google's computer systems.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing was told by an unidentified Chinese contact that China's Politburo "directed the intrusion into Google's computer systems," the New York Times reported Sunday, citing a single leaked State Department cable.

"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," the Times reported.

The cable is another piece of evidence, albeit thinly sourced, linking China to the Google attack. Wikileaks is gradually releasing this latest set of cables, and the document in question was not available on WikiLeaks' Web site at press time. The Times, along with a handful of other newspapers, was given early access to the documents.

Security experts have linked the attacks to servers at a university used by the Chinese military, and both Google and the State Department implied that they thought China was behind the attacks when they were first disclosed in January, but nobody has produced conclusive proof that they were state-sponsored.

Google was one of more than 30 companies targeted in the attacks, known as Aurora. Google said the primary goal of the hackers was to access the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, and that the attack apparently failed.

Within hours of Google acknowledging the Aurora attacks, the State Department issued a statement, saying the attacks were serious and asking the Chinese government for an explanation.

The state documents are the latest blockbuster disclosure to come from the document-leaking organization. Earlier this year, WikiLeaks came under fire from U.S. authorities after releasing hundreds of thousands of military documents relating to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wikileaks and State Department representatives could not be reached immediately for comment Sunday. Earlier this year, the State Department said that it regrets, "all of the activities that WikiLeaks has done, past, present, and future."

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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