Did Google Get Hacked Because a Chinese Official Didn't Like His Search Results?

The Chinese government has been running a hacking ring that launched a hack attack on Google earlier this year, according to a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks yesterday.

And it wasn’t a simple matter of corporate espionage or a strategic show of cyber force: according to a secret “contact” inside the government, a senior member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the nine-member group that runs the country, ordered the Google attack after he typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles attacking him.

If the cable is to be believed, the Politburo was behind "a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government," reports The New York Times. The effort, which has lasted since 2002, also extended to American government computers, and those of Western allies, Tibetan organizations, and American businesses.

And The Guardian reports that

“the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally.”

While the Google cable has been reviewed by a handful of news outlets like The Times and The Guardian, you won’t yet find it at WikiLeaks, which is reportedly still sifting through cables to edit out very sensitive information and the names of informants. (WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange is already non-terrorist public enemy no. 1 of governments around the world.)

The newspapers are using discretion around information contained in the cables too. But already the Chinese central leadership knows it has a mole on its hands. It is unnerving to think about what could happen to him or her if uncovered.

The massive computer attack on Google and other companies, first revealed last January, is the focus of a small set of the 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks, of which more than 90 percent are neither secret nor “noforn” (not to be shared with foreign governments). In response to the attack, Google temporarily pulled out of China, but returned by way of its Hong Kong search engine this summer.