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China rejects Google hacking claims

posted 2 Jun 2011, 05:24 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 2 Jun 2011, 05:27 ]

China says it "cannot accept" accusations hackers likely based in China tried to break into hundreds of Google mail accounts, and a Chinese activist who believes her account has been compromised decries what she calls anti-constitutional measures.

BEIJING, CHINA REUTERS - China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday (June 2) denied accusations that hackers likely based in China tried to break into hundreds of Google mail accounts.

Google email accounts that were attacked in the last few days included those belonging to senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists, the Internet company said in a statement.

The perpetrators appeared to originate from Jinan, the capital of China's eastern Shandong province, Google said.

Jinan is home to one of six technical reconnaissance bureaus belonging to China's army and a technical college U.S. investigators last year linked to a previous attack on Google.

Washington said it was investigating Google's claims while the FBI said it was working with Google following the attacks, the latest computer-based invasions directed at multinational companies that have raised global alarm about Internet security.

"Hacking is an international problem. China is also a victim of hacking. Claims that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are totally groundless and are driven by an ulterior motive," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"Blaming China is unacceptable. The Chinese government places great importance on computer and internet security and controls the internet according to law, and demands that internet users respect relevant laws and regulations when using computers and the internet," Hong said.

The hackers in China recently tried to crack and monitor email accounts by stealing passwords, but Google detected and "disrupted" their campaign and notified the victims, the world's largest Web search company said on its official blog.

Cui Weiping (pron: tsway way-ping), a professor at the Beijing Film Academy who has been calling for an end to the official silence about the Tiananmen crackdown, said her Gmail account has been interfered with on many occasions in recent years, including the forwarding of emails to other addresses.

Cui said that on Thursday she was unable to access her Gmail account at all, and instead a message would appear telling her that her password was incorrect.

Cui believed that someone entered her account, and said such interference was common among the accounts of politically sensitive individuals in China.

"I am very annoyed by this phenomenon, extremely unhappy. Because my email account is my personal, private life. Moreover, our country's Constitution says that the people's freedom of communication must be protected. So if someone wants to get into my inbox and does enter it, then this is in violation of the Constitution, it is an action that breaks the Constitution," she said.

Three Chinese dissidents told Reuters their accounts had been infiltrated in recent days, although eight others who were contacted said they had no problems recently, but had experienced problems in the past.

Google did not say the Chinese government was behind the attacks or say what might have motivated them.

The revelation comes more than a year after Google disclosed a cyber attack on its systems that it said it traced to China, and could further strain an already tense relationship with Beijing.

Google partially pulled out of China, the world's largest Internet market by users, because of the dispute.

The events have exacerbated an often difficult relationship between Washington and Beijing, with disputes ranging from human rights to trade.