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Google Attacks Came From One China University and One School With Close Ties to Military

Posted by Author on February 18, 2010

By JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID BARBOZA, The New York Times, February 18, 2010 –

SAN FRANCISCO
— A series of online attacks on Google and dozens of other American corporations have been traced to computers at two educational institutions in China, including one with close ties to the Chinese military, say people involved in the investigation.

They also said the attacks, aimed at stealing trade secrets and computer codes and capturing e-mail of Chinese human rights activists, may have begun as early as April, months earlier than previously believed. Google announced on Jan. 12 that it and other companies had been subjected to sophisticated attacks that probably came from China.

Computer security experts, including investigators from the National Security Agency, have been working since then to pinpoint the source of the attacks. Until recently, the trail had led only to servers in Taiwan.

If supported by further investigation, the findings raise as many questions as they answer, including the possibility that some of the attacks came from China but not necessarily from the Chinese government, or even from Chinese sources.

Tracing the attacks further back, to an elite Chinese university and a vocational school, is a breakthrough in a difficult task. Evidence acquired by a United States military contractor that faced the same attacks as Google has even led investigators to suspect a link to a specific computer science class, taught by a Ukrainian professor at the vocational school.

The revelations were shared by the contractor at a meeting of computer security specialists.

The Chinese schools involved are Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Lanxiang Vocational School, according to several people with knowledge of the investigation who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the inquiry.

Jiaotong has one of China’s top computer science programs. Just a few weeks ago its students won an international computer programming competition organized by I.B.M. — the “Battle of the Brains” — beating out Stanford and other top-flight universities.

Lanxiang, in east China’s Shandong Province, is a huge vocational school that was established with military support and trains some computer scientists for the military. The school’s computer network is operated by a company with close ties to Baidu, the dominant search engine in China and a competitor of Google……. (more details from The New York Times)

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