Government "Back Door" Allegedly Allowed Hackers into Google Email

Hackers exploited surveillance feature requested by law enforcement

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Jan 25, 2010  |  Updated 3:03 PM PDT
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Government "Back Door" Allegedly Allowed Hackers into Google Email

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Google won the praise of free speech advocates for threatening to stop cooperating with the Chinese government. Wonder if they'll threaten to stop cooperating with the American government?

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Just how sophisticated were the attacks originating from China that saw hackers accessing Google Gmail accounts and corporate networks across the country?

According to security guru Bruce Schneier, the attacks on Gmail actually exploited the very system Google put in place to allow law enforcement officials, hopefully with warrants, spy on users.

The United States has long wished for the ability to spy on American citizens. Former Vice President Al Gore lobbied hard for a "Clipper Chip" back door into digital devices back in the 1990s.

Ironically enough, when the National Security Agency started wiretapping Internet connections without warrants after the passage of the Patriot Act, Gore's boss, former President Bill Clinton, was one of the users caught in the illegal dragnet.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is once again denying any involvement in the attacks, arguing that the accusation "is groundless and aims to denigrate China" according to an anonymous Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official quoted by state news agency Xinhua.

The situation has prompted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu to ask American diplomats like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to drop the "so-called Internet freedom issue."

Within the context of hackers using Google tools built to help supposedly more democratic governments spy on citizens: Oh, snap!

Jackson West doesn't think the Great Firewall of China is a good thing, but Schneier's right that America and Google aren't squeaky clean, either.

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