From CNet Security today we learn that the FBI and the NSA (at minimum, there are doubtless other agencies involved) are looking into the Google claim that a phishing scam of Chinese origin was targeting US government officials. Google’s claim also specifies journalists and activists have also been targeted, though this article does not specifically deal with those claims:
The official statement from the National Security Agency is a bit of a dodge, actually:
“Speaking on behalf of the U.S. government, we’re looking into these reports and seeking to gather the facts,” Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokesperson for the National Security Agency, told CNET today. “We have no reason to believe that any official U.S. government e-mail accounts were accessed.”
Notice that official government email accounts would not be administered by Google or gMail, so of course they would not be directly affected. That is not the same thing as saying that US officials with private email accounts didn’t get hacked, or that the information they shared with others on that account isn’t of a sensitive nature.
For its part, China seems to be acting rather punchy, especially considering the fact that Google’s statement does not imply any specific government involvement in the hack. In fairness, though, announcements of hacking attempts don’t normally include the specific city and country of origin. So the question becomes what, if any, Chinese government buildings are in Jinan, China?
Add to this the official Pentagon announcement that it will declare cyberattacks to be acts of war and you’ve got a somewhat scary escalation in the Internet realm. Not that I think cyberattacks will escalate to full-scale war, but a purely network-based “cold war” could tie up billions of dollars of Internet trade, which is not good news for economy.