Google attacks linked to Chinese schools

The recent online attacks on Google and other companies have been traced back to a school and university in China.

The school has close ties to the Chinese military, reports the New York Times.

Sources also told the paper that the attacks could have started months earlier than believed – possibly as early as April. Indeed, Business Week reports that the same hackers were targeting US companies a year and a half ago.

The attacks had previously been traced back to servers in Taiwan, but there the trail had gone cold.

Shanghai’s Jiaotong University has one of China’s top computer science departments, while the Lanxiang Vocational School trains computer scientists for the military. Suspicion has fallen in particular on a Ukranian professor at the school.

The institutions have denied all knowledge. The Guardian  has a rather nice quote from a member of staff at the school: “Our students are middle school graduates, and we train them to use software like Photoshop. If our students are so skilled they can hack Google, then what are they here for?” she said.

The attacks were aimed at stealing trade secrets and information about human rights activists.

It’s still unknown whether the schools were in some way a front for Chinese military installations or government agencies.

There’s also been speculation that the attacks were a massive exercise in industrial espionage, or that they came from another country.