China denied involvement in a high-profile cyber attack targeting senior U.S. officials, Chinese political activists, journalists and military personnel Thursday. "Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives," Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. On Wednesday, Google announced that the Gmail accounts of more than 100 influential people in the U.S., China and "several Asian countries" were broken into by a phishing attack. The search giant said the attacks originated from Jinan, China and didn't rule out the possibility that the attacks were state-sponsored. The Associated Press notes that Jinan is home to a military vocational school "whose computers were linked to an assault 17 months ago on Google's systems." Last March, that assault led Google to partially withdraw from China and accuse it of partial involvement in the attacks.
Reuters columnist Wei Gu says the this latest assault could have a chilling effect on Silicon Valley's investments in the world's largest internet market. "By speaking up, Google has indicated it is unlikely to return to China anytime soon," Wei writes. "The latest incident may make Facebook, Twitter and YouTube less eager to crack the Chinese market too."
In an unusual reaction, the editor-in-chief of a nationalistic Chinese tabloid lashed out against the Chinese government following Google's announcement of the attack. But not because he thought China acted maliciously: Global Times editor Hu Xijin thinks his government should reveal the hacking attacks waged against its officials. “How many officials does China have daily whose computers are attacked?” the post, translated by The Wall Street Journal, began. “Why don’t we make this public? Now it’s all foreign countries pointing the finger at China, saying China is attacking foreigners’ computers, and our overseas students are all spies.” Hu accused the Communist Party of being "silent and circumspect" and blamed the situation on "insufficient transparency of information in China" in an article the Journal calls "unusually bold" for a "high-profile member of the Chinese media establishment."
As for the White House, according to a Reuters report, its investigating the incident "but did not believe U.S. government email accounts were breached in the attack."