People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 10

March 07, 2010

                       

Agent Google and Cyberwars

R Arun Kumar

 

FOR the past few days the 'buzz' is about Google, China, Privacy and Cyberwar. Not unlinked with them are the relations between the two powerful countries in the world – China and the US. What caught the attention of the world was the announcement made by Google stating that it would stop censoring its Chinese website, Google.cn, even if it means leaving the country. The company said it was alarmed by hackers’ attacks from within China, a claim not substantiated with proof. Google's complaints have received backing from the Obama administration and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had given a 'fiery' speech 'championing' the cause of 'freedom of expression'.

Google claimed that its servers along with those of some other software firms and energy companies were targeted by hackers whom they suspected to be from China. Subsequently, they had approached the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US to help them trace the culprits. After a few weeks of investigation, they claimed to have traced the cyber footprints and alleged that two technical schools in China are responsible for these attacks. This was instantly denied by these institutions and both of them demanded proof for the allegations levelled against them. Neither the NSA nor the Google provided the proof.

China bashers plunged to renew their criticism accusing it of 'trampling human rights' and attacks on 'freedom of expression' and 'privacy of individuals'. What they conveniently hush up is the fact that many so-called 'free' countries do in fact censor content of the internet to suit their interests. More than 25 countries blocked Google services while 13 countries have blocked YouTube. Google had obliged South Korean government in 2008 by blocking users of local versions of its YouTube video service from uplinking content. In 2002, Google had blocked access to over 100 sites at the request of France and Germany as they do not confirm with the laws of those lands. It blocked the ability of anyone living in Syria to download their software tools. Even the US, which claims to be the most liberal society in the world, censors content on the net in the name of national and computer security concerns. It uses pressure to remove content from the net which it feels is detrimental to its interests. The United States is one of the most aggressive states in the world in terms of listening to online conversations.

Moreover, Google is one of the biggest convicts as far as violation of privacy is concerned. Whenever we search the web using Google, the IP address of the computer, the item searched for, including the date and time gets stored in their database. Google claims that this information is necessary to provide 'improved service'. In reality this is used by the company to earn millions of dollars as revenue by selling this information to advertising companies. The advertisements that we find in the Gmail are thus an outcome of such profiling of our net footprints done by the Google. All the services provided by Google – Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Groups, Google Spreadsheets, Google Earth – are used to collect such footprints. No wonder that Google provides all its services free of cost, projecting a smart face to the users but continues earning billions of dollars.

Google is not just that 'innocent-self', interested in earning billions selling our data. It has deep ties with US intelligence agencies and actively cooperates with them. In a candid interview given by the CEO of Google in December 2009 to CNBC, Eric Schmidt divulged that search engines may turn over citizens' private information to the government. “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place...But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And it's important, for example, that we are all subject to the United States Patriot Act. It is possible that information could be made available to the authorities”. And Google has a 'deep' working relationship with the notorious CIA.

Google is the supplier of the core search technology for ‘Intellipedia’, a highly-secured online system where 37,000 US spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on their devious errands. In addition, Google is linked to the US spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. It acquired Keyhole Inc in 2004, the same base technology currently employed by US military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the planet. Google's friends at In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, are now investing in Visible Technologies, a software firm specialised in 'monitoring social media'. This technology can automatically examine more than a million discussions and posts on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon, and so forth each day. According to their own spokesperson they will use the technology to monitor social media operating in other countries and give US spies “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally”.

Way back in 2008, ex-CIA agent Robert David Steele revealed, “Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn't fund what I call the open source world….They've been together for quite a while.” More specifically, “Google is supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies who are in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.” So much so for the motto of the company “Don't be Evil”.

In these days when computers and chips are playing an increasingly preponderant role in security systems and military, it is natural that every country would initiate steps to protect themselves from possible attacks. There were reports in the British media in 2002, disclosing a CIA Internet spying plot wherein it sought to collect information by breaking into giant companies, banks and governmental organs and organisations across the world. According to the internet security firm Macafee, the US, France, Britain, China, Russia and Israel have all developed “advanced offensive cyber capabilities”, to be used during major conflicts. Among these countries the United States is considered the most worrisome potential aggressor. In a separate survey of 600 technology and security executives of firms around the world, conducted by the same firm, it found that 36 per cent feared the United States as potentially attacking their industries.

US is also home to a huge number of cyber attacks. An important weapon in the cyber attack arsenal is a 'botnet', a cluster of thousands and sometimes millions of compromised computers under the ultimate remote control of a 'master'. They are also engines of spam that can deliver destructive malware that enables economic espionage or theft. The United States is the country from which a good chunk of botnet attacks stem. It is also a leading source of 'hacktivists' who use digital tools to fight regimes that US categorises as 'oppressive'. Scores of individuals and groups in the United States design or employ computer payloads to attack government websites, computer systems and censoring tools in Iran and China. Hillary Clinton herself had boasted that these efforts are often supported by US foundations, universities and by the federal government.

According to Bob Gourley, the former chief technology officer for the Defence Intelligence Agency, US 'warriors in cyberspace' are “deployed overseas” and “live in adversary networks”. The NSA, the world's most powerful signals intelligence organisation, is also in the business of breaking into and extracting data from offshore enemy computer systems and of engaging in computer attacks that, in the NSA's words, “disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy the information” found in these systems. It is with such agencies that Google stands together.

Given this, it is natural for any country to be on the guard. The reasons for socialist China to be apprehensive are thus genuinely justified. Chinese claim that they have evidence to show that many US spy agencies are using the net to instigate and initiate riots by spreading rumours and absurdities. Their role in the riots in China last July, where more than 200 were dead was well documented. It is natural for any State to block such sites in their interests. US and others are in the habit of thinking too much about those “who attack us and too little about our attacks on others”. Together with encouraging the development of indigenous software and technology, China is defending its systems from such attacks. When it does happen in China it is called 'censorship' and attack on human rights but the same in the US is called 'blocking of some sites for national security'. So much for the dual standards!

For sometime now, after the initial bonhomie witnessed during Obama's trip to China, sparks are flying between the two countries. The US is using all tricks in the trade to pressurise China. It restored to protectionist measures on some of the goods exported by China. It is worried about the growing stature of China in the international sphere particularly among the developing countries as witnessed during the Climate Summit in Copenhagen. But it cannot also antagonise China and needs it all the more for coming out of the present crisis. It is this contradiction that is responsible for the 'cat and mouse' game of the US.

The recent announcement of Google, appears to be a part of an orchestrated campaign against China than a show of its genuine concerns about 'human rights' or 'privacy'. The US is badly battered by the economic crisis and is desperate to come out of this crisis and reaffirm its hegemonic role. For this, one, it has to force China to revalue its currency and two, malign China – which it regards as its competitor – a 'rogue' State without precisely using the term. This shows its eagerness in jumping at the 'Google opportunity' and profess what it does not do.

Remember, Google is also one of the biggest donors for the Democratic Party.

PS: If you do not want to become a 'product' for the Google, try using http://www.ixquick.com for your searches.