Google Discovers That Bad People Do More Than Type Mean Things!

China’s obsession about controlling the Internet as a disruptive force is well summarized in this Wired story about the murder of a young Chinese student for Internet addiction. The story quite rightly highlights the paranoia and sense of threat are shared by society and bureaucrats. Cnet also offers a nice roundup of events leading up to Google’s sudden discovery it was doing business with an authoritarian government.

John Markoff et al. also remind us that the Chinese government has been waging formal warfare on the Internet since the first doctrinal and theoretical iterations appeared over a decade ago. In this instance, they are a people of their word. And who would have guessed an authoritarian government would hack private computers, foreign governments networks, and in general act like a determined geopolitical foe and opponent of liberal democracy?

We always thought Google’s initial decision to wade into China pecuniary. Too big a market to be missed. Perhaps they thought deals with authoritarians could be kept quiet. Isn’t that the point of authoritarianism? So we have no sympathy for them now. After all, they had 5 years of the Warlord, National Security Letters and the NSA all gone ex- constitutional here. On a day to day commercial basis Google is in many ways as oppressive, capricious and domineering as its supposed evil Chinese overlords. It’s time to end the charade of Google’s ‘innocence’ and ‘don’t do bad things’ mouthings.

They knowingly crawled into bed with the devil. And seemingly want to run away half pregnant. They will miss out on the large market revenue they lust for. Now that Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon have split up, some of the future parties to shower Schmidt, Brin and the other kid will be more fractured. Plus, as Techdirt notes, Google is quite content to help the Indian government censor. Kind of inconvenient when trying to celebrate a stand on principle.

On the other hand, it could all be clever PR – the launch of their iPhone-killer was a boondoggle. A complete nightmare. Who better to blow that noisome publicity away than some faceless Chinese who want to monitor the Dali Lama’s downloading of American Idol on YouTube? Much posturing, like WWF’s early days. If not, it’s not like the U.S. is completely out of the market. There’s a company, further north, that specializes in evil (unintentional or not) and above all shares the zeal in crushing dissent and competition — although they may be getting soft. They even have a product, Bing! (And it seems were in on it from the get go . . .)


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    MI-5 and Brits discover Chinese handing out bugged or backdoored gadgets to English executives, industry, etc.

    As readers know, DARPA and others have fretted about this for over a decade once everyone woke up to the fact the U.S. surrendered control of fabbed silicon to the Pacific. We personally contributed to some of those discussions. (When State wanted to sole source its IT purchases to Lenovo, the Chinese-owned company that purchased IBM’s old PC division the astonishment was vast – but the Chinese (or Taiwanese) make the innards of everyone else’s chips anyway).

    [/ snip]

    “A leaked MI5 document says that undercover intelligence officers from the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security have also approached UK businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offer of ‘gifts’ and ‘lavish hospitality.’ The gifts — cameras and memory sticks — have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users’ computers.”

    That’s bad. But why, if these stories are true, should the Chinese government stop there? U.S. and British citizens buy billions of dollars every year of Chinese-made USB memory sticks, computers, hard drives, and cameras. Why not just add security holes as a matter of course to the firmware of all of them?

    It’s not hard. Heck. It’s trivial.”

    [ snip]

    Ladies and gentleman, guess what? This IS what happens when you become dependent on others for both your tech *and* finances. People speculate that the 2010 QDR lays the ground work for Chinese outright military superiority by 2035-2045. Such optimism.

    Cultures also manifest different preferences and techniques for intelligence gathering and offensive counter-intelligence. It would be a huge mistake for the general American public to assume Chinese gather intelligence (include the identification and approach of targets let alone areas of knowledge or overall penetration) as say the Sovs, the French, Israelis, etc. (There is a great deal of professional literature on the subject going back decades).

    We are harsh on the Bureau now them for their demonstrable contempt for the 4th Amendment, complete intoxication blending self righteousness of mission for law, etc. But, we are also equally consistent in arguing the Bureau’s Counter-Intelligence mission is still under resourced, under appreciated and completely swamped with unprecedented aggressive attacks against U.S. and U.S.-related (contractor, etc.) targets.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    USG policies made the Chinese cyber attacks easier according to this CNN report. It doesn’t come as a total surprise that an intruder will seek any exploit. As much as the Stiftung despises the Patriot Act and the entire extra-constitutional activities of our self-important (and self-serving) national security nomenklatura the Chicoms were going to find a way in. As they say, the only secure computer is unconnected to the Net, Tempest (whatever the current nom du jour is) and in a RF and sonically neutralized environment with no I/O ports.

    But as long time collaborators Google deserves nothing but contempt. Do no evil indeed.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    A view from Japan on Google and China —

    J@pan Inc Newsletter
    The ‘JIN’ J@pan Inc Newsletter
    A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends in Japan.
    Issue No. 516 Thursday, January 21, 2010, Tokyo

    Last week Google released a statement on its company blog that may forever change the way in which Western companies do business in China. According to David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, a series of Internet attacks on Google’s Gmail service, many specifically targeted at China’s dissident human rights activists, has led the company to reconsider the continuation of its business in China.

    Drummond said, “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, 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, and potentially our offices in China.”

    The reaction to Google’s rather dramatic statement has ranged from the cynical to the laudatory with some calling the move a direct reaction to the company’s inability to unseat the local dominant search player Baidu (whose stock jumped 14 percent after the statement was released) while others seem to feel that Google’s decision to cease censoring its China operation is something that has been long overdue.

    Further politicizing the matter, in response to Google’s statement, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, released the following statement: “We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation…”

    And while there are indeed political and human rights concerns attached to this issue, there is one line in Google’s original statement that essentially defines the tenor of the company’s threat to exit China. Buried in the middle of the statement, Drummond wrote, “We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users.” Although the wording may sound like run-of-the-mill service language from a large corporation, what this sentence points to is Google’s chief concerns related to cloud computing and the larger issue of possibly state-supported industrial espionage.

    In the days following the statement it was revealed that Adobe and a number of other companies were included in the attacks, further buttressing the belief within IT security circles that this issue is more about corporate secrets and propriety code rather than West versus East political/cultural concerns.

    According to reports, Google’s China revenue, which is projected to reach $600 million this year (last year it was approximately $300 million), amounts to just 2 percent of the company’s overall projected revenue of $26 billion. Nevertheless, the closing of Google’s China office would mean downsizing around 600 employees, and losing any foothold in one of the fastest growing Internet markets on the planet.

    Even considering the specter of corporate espionage, such a massive retreat on Google’s part might seem a bit heavy handed, until you think about the business culture of China. On the streets of Beijing a common phrase, that has no doubt permeated the upper echelons of Chinese business, states: “Neng pian, jiu pian” (if you can trick them, then trick them). It’s not a stretch to assume that this Chinese business culture approach is the same brand of thinking that has allowed nearly perfect bootleg versions of Western products such as iPhones, film DVDs, clothing and even automobiles to be sold openly on the streets of China with little to no legal repercussions. What some are painting as a political issue may actually be a business culture issue.

    While Google’s failure to unseat Baidu in China might lead some to compare the situation to Google’s inability to surpass Yahoo Japan, the two situations are vastly different. In Japan, Google faces the cultural hurdles common to all non-Japanese companies hoping to unlock the mind of a market that thinks quite differently from the West. But beyond that admittedly significant factor, the playing field is usually even due to a system with enforced laws designed to protect intellectual property. The recent statement from Google indicates that the playing field in China (at least in the eyes of Google) is not quite even enough to warrant continued attention and investment.

    But optimists hoping that the recent string of events will somehow spur a mass exodus from China on the part of Western companies following Google’s lead would do well to examine the entire picture. Despite issues of corporate espionage and lax attention to IP law, China still services a large portion of the Western world when it comes to cheap labor and the manufacturing of hard goods. To this point, while the streets of Beijing are littered with fake iPhones, the fact remains that China is where iPhones are built, and that manufacturing relationship is vital not just to Apple, but to a number of companies based in the West.

    As the political and international market fallout from Google’s grandstand continues to play out, we’ll make a couple predictions:
    1. China will not back down, or change its policy on local Internet censorship, thus calling Google’s bluff—forcing the company to stand behind its words or lose credibility.
    2. The adoption of Google’s Android mobile phone platform will not become a major global standard and proliferate if Mountainview sticks to its guns regarding China. In the short-term, this will greatly affect the fate of Google’s popular new Nexus One phone.
    3. Baidu (number one in China, and the third largest search engine in the world, just behind Yahoo) will, if they’re clever, use this moment to highlight what some feel is a sense of entitlement on Google’s part and aggressively enter new Western markets.

    Adario Strange

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Attack waves now hitting defense contractors. Remember the quaint days under Warlord Pt 1 when DARPA was freaking out no one really knew everything that was being put on Chinese silica at the fabs? Perhaps it’s akin to oldsters now fondly recalling promiscuous life before later stds like herpes or aids and ‘Just Say No’ – when a guy could still get a date driving a Gremlin wearing Earth Shoes and ‘cranking’ John Denver on the 8 Track.

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