This is a rather interesting development…
Google believes its systems are being attacked by China, in order to gain information on Chinese human rights activists who happen to use Gmail. Well, duh. What prominent company or government isn’t being targeted by Chinese state-sponsored hackers? (Perhaps the nation of Togo.)
The interesting part is Google’s response: a threat to stop doing business in China. That would mean closing its office there, and shutting down Google.cn (the Chinese version of its search engine, with government-friendly censored results). If Google follows through on this threat, it will send a simple message: play nice or we’ll take our ball and go home. Hopefully they will also release more details about the attacks, so that the rest of us can learn to better defend ourselves.
Of course, China’s economy is huge, and the loss of business with one foreign company probably wont have a measurable impact (unless it’s Walmart). However, it’s still a powerful symbolic gesture. If China wants to be treated as a serious member of our modern global society, they need to stop acting like Mongol invaders from the 13th century.
Maybe if more companies took a similar stance (and followed through), then China would rethink its hostile cyber strategies. Or would they just be sneakier about it?