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Yahoo, others respond to Chinese attacks on Google

Yahoo wouldn’t disclose whether it was also a victim of cyber attacks in China, saying it doesn’t disclose such information. Microsoft said its Internet applications were not targeted by cyber attackers.

On Tuesday, Google said it might withdraw it business from China after a sophisticated Internet attack that targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

It said that at least 20 other large companies, including finance, media and chemical firms, have been the targets of similar attacks. Google said it discovered the attack in December.

Yahoo received much criticism in 2005 for giving a Chinese journalist's personal data to the state government upon its request. That journalist was ultimately convicted of violating state secrets.

In a statement, Yahoo said: “We condemn any attempts to infiltrate company networks to obtain user information. We stand aligned with Google that these kinds of attacks are deeply disturbing and strongly believe that the violation of user privacy is something that we as internet pioneers must all oppose.” The company did not immediately respond to questions about whether it would follow Google’s lead.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Chinese government for answers about the alleged attack on Google and other companies.

“The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy,” she said in a statement. Clinton will be giving an address next week on “Internet freedom,” that will outline policies for keeping the Web open to all nations.

A State source at the State Department said Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed the problem to Clinton during a dinner she hosted for high-tech executives last week.

But some analysts and high-tech executives at competing firms point to Google’s struggle to gain market share in China as a key motivator for Tuesday’s announcement.

Google has struggled to gain a greater share of the Internet search market in China, which has been dominated by Chinese Web site Baidu.

In November 2009, Google captured 14.1 percent of the market while Baidu had 62.2 percent. Those shares have remained fairly stable over the last several months, according to digital marketing and analysis firm ComScore.

Smaller search engines like, Inc, and Tencent have barely broken into the market but the potential withdrawl from Google may give them more opportunity to do so.

"The top of the deck was stacked against them so they felt that they had no choice,"
said Rob Enderle, a high-tech industry analyst for Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif.

"Iran and China put Google between a rock and hard place. There is no reason to fight a country you are trying to do business in, particularly if it was the Chinese government that was attacking the e-mail," Enderle said.

Enderle said it was unclear if other high-tech firms would follow Google's lead. But the move does give the Obama administration leverage in trade negotiations, he said.

"The Obama administration now has a card to play and that card is to say that one of our biggest companies was forced out of your country," Enderle said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 13, 2010; 12:31 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Returning your Nexus One? Prepare to pay up to $550.
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I live in Beijing, and as it stands, Google China ( is useless for me and the expat community -- I go to itself, whose servers are US-based. Even so, the Great Firewall (not run by Google) filters my web searches anyway. So, most -- including many Chinese -- use software to bypass the Chinese filters (easy to get and use).

Even if Google China stays and continues to filter websites in accordance with the Chinese Government's rules, it doesn't make any difference, the VPN software and other readily-available programs allows anyone to easily bypass the blocked websites, therefor censoring done by Google China or anyone else is largely fruitless. The only people it really effects are those Chinese citizens who use public internet cafes and those who are unaware of the bypass software, which is available for the asking from any university student at any Chinese university.

Personally, I only use such software to access my Twitter and Facebook accounts and various blogs (any search or attempted access to any website with the word "blog" in it is blocked here). I'm not a counter-revolutionary, I just want access to my business accounts and customers.

So -- and this is key -- whether Google China continues to operate in China under China's rules or not is relatively meaningless. People that want to will access it regardless. Google could move it's Chinese operation to Taiwan, for instance.

I would applaud Google if it pulled out as a symbolic gesture, since it is an ongoing, pervasive, and sinister attempt to access the private data of all Western, non-Chinese businesses. Such attempts will not stop until the Chinese government realizes it is detrimental to their overall business relationships with the rest of the world, and that such acts are illegal, fear-inspiring, and hate-inducing.

However, I would equally applaud the Chinese government if they threw some Western companies out of China due to their very own illegal attempts to hijack data from Chinese companies. You cannot so enthusiasticaly condemn China for simply doing what other governments and Western corporations do, and we need to think about that carefully before we rush to point fingers.

Posted by: Frank57 | January 13, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Personally I think the issue is a plot against the Chinese government, using as a decoy to create bashing for the U.S. political games like the protectionism of imports from China. After google ripped off the Chinese book authors illegally they are trying to save face... Anything negative can be expected from corporate America. Li Fei Long

Posted by: tteamoh | January 14, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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