Google made headlines when it went public with the fact that Chinese hackers had penetrated some of its services, such as Gmail, in a politically motivated attempt at intelligence gathering. The news here isn’t that Chinese hackers engage in these activities or that their attempts are technically sophisticated — we knew that already — it’s that the U.S. government inadvertently aided the hackers.

In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.

Google’s system isn’t unique. Democratic governments around the world — in Sweden, Canada and the UK, for example — are rushing to pass laws giving their police new powers of Internet surveillance, in many cases requiring communications system providers to redesign products and services they sell.




  1. chris says:

    Brilliant!

    They got something out of it, but the real story is that companies let such a thing exist.

    Who looks like the bad guy now?

  2. Thomas says:

    #1
    “Let” such a thing exist? They were forced by the US government to make such a thing exist.

    The ugly truth is that it is entirely possible to make a system that is secure from tampering and interception and that no government wants such a system. Governments want systems that impervious to hacking from everyone except them.

    Google should consider setting up an offshore company that handles GMail and return it to being secure.

  3. qb says:

    It would interesting to know if the same laws apply to the email systems of large corporations, institutions like universities and hospitals, and religious organizations.

  4. Father says:

    Spys should have to report what stocks they buy and sell, as they must have the best insider information on the planet. I wouldn’t be shocked if they missed the crotch bomber because they were too busy working on their stockmarket planning.

  5. chris says:

    #2 Communications companies can say “let me see the paperwork and we’ll send you the records.”

    I’ve seen nothing that suggests it is built into law that you need to let the government access the systems directly.

  6. sargasso says:

    Suggest a new headline. Chinese Into Google’s Back Door.

  7. MRN says:

    The phrase “hoist by one’s own petard” seems quite apt in this case.

  8. Breetai says:

    Excuse me for stating the obvious. But does any companies that offer an email solution that doesn’t have a back door?

    Capitalism at it’s finest. Providing people the products they want eh?

    Seriously the people making that claims that capitalism is great. Need to shut up, Capitalism is dead welcome to Oligarchy.

  9. Animby says:

    This and the previous story about surveillance just make me sad. I wonder if these sorts of things are the consequence of the world we live in or is the world we live in the consequence of such actions?

  10. nunyac says:

    Communication Co. prob. find resistance difficult when monetary coercion is involved.
    Yes, a secure communication channel is possible if the users see to their own security by using strong encryption of their data before they send it. Perhaps the solution to this type of police state tyrany is to send strongly encrypted data 24/7 and make sure that 99% of your encrypted data is superfluous (attack their budget).

  11. amodedoma says:

    Paranoia will destroy ya.

    But seriously folks, anybody stupid enough to think that their mail is safe or secure on public servers – hotmail, yahoo, gmail, etc,, deserves to have their mail looked at by government spooks.

  12. dcphill says:

    China “back dooring” Google…..sounds kinky
    to me. It seems to me that if our government
    has access to gmail back door then they should
    know what China is up to. Encrypt your stuff
    to keep prying eyes out.

  13. Winston says:

    Come on, people. You can trust your government with all of these back doors being intentionally put in place (probably) everywhere. I’m sure all proper warrants are always obtained:

    “FBI broke law for years in phone record searches”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/18/AR2010011803982_pf.html

    and that the systems are designed so that there is virtually no way they can ever be misused by unauthorized individuals. Oh, wait…


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