Google under attack! China?

On Drudge today, Google made a surprising announcement that it will be partnering with the NSA to improve the security of Google’s network and systems. Google and other commercial enterprises have been under severe attacks from foreign agencies. Google and China have been in opposition over censorship orders from the Chinese government.

There will be a Hue and Cry from those around the world who view any cooperation between a corporate entity and government with alarm and suspicion. They will view any such agreements as collusion to invade personal privacy.

Anyone who spends any time on the internet knows that users really have no privacy on their communications and shouldn’t expect any. Advocates of encryption admit that such will only delay any serious inquiries, not block them.

I use Google as a preferred search engine. I have an email account with Google and this blog is hosted by Google. I’m not totally pleased with all of Google’s corporate actions but I’m less pleased with their competitors—Microsoft for instance, than I am with Google.

Here is an excerpt from today’s Washington Post. Follow the link for the entire column. Be aware that the Cyber War has been going on for over a decade. It is now getting more publicity but the attacks against our nation’s network infrastructure will not cease. When I worked for a large communications company, I was aware of foreign attacks against the company’s networks and systems. Few got through. Some did and deposited some virii on occasion. The company was ever vigilant and very alert for any incursions. It was an unending battle. Now Corporate America will have to step up thier efforts to do the same and harden their systems. Too many just give lip service to corporate security. They will pay severely if they don’t take remedial action immediately.

By Ellen Nakashima
Thursday, February 4, 2010; A01

The world’s largest Internet search company and the world’s most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google — and its users — from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users’ searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

The partnership strikes at the core of one of the most sensitive issues for the government and private industry in the evolving world of cybersecurity: how to balance privacy and national security interests. On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair called the Google attacks, which the company acknowledged in January, a “wake-up call.” Cyberspace cannot be protected, he said, without a “collaborative effort that incorporates both the U.S. private sector and our international partners.”

But achieving collaboration is not easy, in part because private companies do not trust the government to keep their secrets and in part because of concerns that collaboration can lead to continuous government monitoring of private communications. Privacy advocates, concerned about a repeat of the NSA’s warrantless interception of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, say information-sharing must be limited and closely overseen.

“The critical question is: At what level will the American public be comfortable with Google sharing information with NSA?” said Ellen McCarthy, president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an organization of current and former intelligence and national security officials that seeks ways to foster greater sharing of information between government and industry.

On Jan. 12, Google took the rare step of announcing publicly that its systems had been hacked in a series of intrusions beginning in December.

The intrusions, industry experts said, targeted Google source code — the programming language underlying Google applications — and extended to more than 30 other large tech, defense, energy, financial and media companies. The Gmail accounts of human rights activists in Europe, China and the United States were also compromised.

So significant was the attack that Google threatened to shutter its business operation in China if the government did not agree to let the firm operate an uncensored search engine there. That issue is still unresolved.

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