The FINANCIAL — China on January 25 denied accusations of any official involvement in hacking attacks on Google and other U.S. companies. Such accusations are “groundless” and aim to “denigrate China,” a government spokesperson said.
"Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to discredit China," said a spokesman for China's ministry of industry and information technology, Telegraph reports. "We are firmly opposed to that," the spokesman added, according to a transcript of an interview with the official with the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency.
According to the same source, although Google did not directly accuse the Chinese government of the "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" on its servers and attempt to target Gmail accounts of human rights activists, the Chinese government was widely inferred to be the target of Google's accusations.
Google has said it was hit by cyberattacks from China that caused the loss of intellectual property and were also aimed at accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, PC World reports. Google cited the attacks, which hit at least 20 other large U.S. companies, as one reason it plans to stop censoring its Chinese search engine, even if that means closing its China offices. The official repeated previous government statements that Chinese law forbids hacking attacks and that the country is open to international cooperation to fight cybercrime.
A spokesperson for China's State Council said the country's laws protect freedom of speech online but also forbid use of the Internet for acts such as subverting the government, destroying national unity or spreading porn or violent content, according to a separate Xinhua report, the same source wrote. "China's handling of this harmful information according to the law has a full legal basis, and without a doubt is a totally separate issue from so-called 'restrictions on Internet freedom,' " the official was quoted as saying. "We will steadfastly walk the path of Internet development and oversight with Chinese characteristics."
The remarks are the most direct official response on the issue, although the government has previously said that it "resolutely opposes" hacking and criticised "baseless" claims, Guardian reports. The spokesman added that China was the biggest victim of such attacks, with hackers targeting more than 42,000 websites last year. Using figures from the Internet Society of China, he said cyber attacks from overseas increased 148% from 2007 to 2008, affecting "sectors of finance, transportation and energy, which posed severe harm to economic development and people's lives".
Separately, a Chinese internet security official told Xinhua that Google had yet to report its complaints to them, according to the same source. "We have been hoping that Google will contact us so that we could have details on this issue and provide them help if necessary," said Zhou Yonglin, deputy chief of operations at the China national computer network emergency response technical team.
Despite the Chinese denials, the US state department said it would continue to press the issue "aggressively" at meetings in Beijing and Washington, Telegraph wrote. "We will continue to seek an explanation from China," said Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman. "A blanket denial that nothing happened we don't think is particularly helpful."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week urged China and other authoritarian governments to pull down Internet censorship, drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing, Reuters informs. After Google first made its criticisms, Beijing was tight-lipped. Now Chinese officials have decided to swing back at Washington.
According to the same source, in the latest jab, a spokesperson for China's State Council Information Office said the nation "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." The comments from the unnamed spokesperson were issued on the central government's website (www.gov.cn).
Guardian reports that industry analysts are now waiting for the outcome of Google's talks with the Chinese authorities after Eric Schmidt, the company's CEO, said after releasing company results last week that he expected that Google would change its Chinese search engine in "a short time".