Google has said that it identified cyber-attacks aimed at silencing opposition to a Vietnamese government-led bauxite mining project involving a major Chinese firm and said they were similar to those at the heart of the company’s friction with Beijing.
The computer security firm McAfee, which detected the malware, went a step further, saying its creators “may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.
Malware infected “potentially tens of thousands of users” who downloaded what they thought was Vietnamese keyboard software, and possibly other software, Neel Mehta of Google’s security team said in a post on Tuesday on the firm’s online security blog.
“These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent,” Mehta wrote. “Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country.”
In other developments, Google said on Tuesday that a deeper look at trouble with results at its Chinese-language search engine indicated the cause was “The Great Firewall of China” erected by censors there.
The US Internet giant had initially thought that recent changes to its search software had misled China censors into thinking queries were for Radio Free Asia.
Google backed off that conclusion after it realized that it had upgraded its search parameters about a week before results stopped showing up for many queries at its Chinese-language engine.
“So whatever happened today to block Google.com.hk must have been as a result of a change in the great firewall,” a Google spokesman said. “However, interestingly our search traffic in China is now back to normal — even though we have not made any changes at our end.”
China’s notoriously sophisticated Internet censorship is referred to as “The Great Firewall.”
Google said it will continue to monitor what is going on, but for the time being “this issue seems to be resolved.”
Google upgraded search code parameters worldwide to include a “gs_rfai” string of characters as part of a modification intended to improve query results, the company said.
Engineers at the firm initially suspected problems with China search results were caused by censorship software in that country mistaking the “rfa” characters as referring to Radio Free Asia (RFA), the US-funded broadcaster transmitted across Asia that is routinely jammed by Chinese authorities.
RFA president Libby Liu said in response to their unintended association with the Google dispute that the development was “a stark reminder to the world of China’s repressive control of the Internet and free speech for its citizens.”
“It’s time for China to stop exerting draconian control of its cyberspace, and allow accurate and objective information to flow freely within its society,” Liu said in a statement released out of Washington.
Google also said it has yet to pinpoint the cause for its mobile Internet service being partially blocked in China.
The US Internet giant reported on Monday that its mobile Internet service in China was partially blocked, but it was unknown whether the trouble was related to its stand-off with Beijing over censorship.
Google mobile includes search, map, news and other services for smartphones and other Internet-enabled handsets.
Sensitivity to problems with Google offerings in China heightened since the company last week said it would no longer bow to government censors in Beijing by filtering its search results and effectively shut down its Chinese search engine, rerouting mainland users to its uncensored site in Hong Kong.
JUMPING BAIL: The democracy advocate said made the decision after ‘considering the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, my physical and mental health’ Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow (周庭), who was jailed over her role in massive 2019 protests, on Sunday said she had moved to Canada and would not return to meet her bail conditions. Chow was one of the best-known young faces of the 2012, 2014 and 2019 protest movements against Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule in Hong Kong. She spent about seven months behind bars for her role in a protest outside Hong Kong police headquarters in 2019, when huge crowds rallied week after week in the most serious challenge to China’s rule since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover. On Sunday
TAKING STOCK: It was not yet clear how damaging the espionage, dating to 1981, has been, as authorities are still assessing the situation, the State Department said A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested and charged with spying for Cuba over a 40-year span, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday, detailing a shock betrayal by a suspect who called the US “the enemy.” US Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the allegations against Victor Manuel Rocha, a onetime member of the White House’s National Security Council now accused of using his positions within the government to support Cuba’s “clandestine intelligence-gathering mission” against the US. The charges against Rocha, 73, expose “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign
DARK WARNINGS: If Trump survives his court trials, neither the Supreme Court nor the US Constitution could stop him from becoming president for life, a ‘Post’ column said Former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday declined to rule out abusing power if he returns to the White House after Fox News host Sean Hannity asked him to respond to growing criticism of his rhetoric. The Republican presidential front-runner has talked about targeting his rivals — referring to them as “vermin” — and vowed to seek retribution if he wins a second term for what he argues are politically motivated prosecutions against him. As Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary, US President Joe Biden has stepped up his own warnings, contending that Trump is “determined to destroy American democracy.” “Under no
Seventeen people died and 11 were injured when a passenger bus careered off a road on a “killer curve” and plunged down a mountain in the central Philippines, officials said yesterday. The bus was traveling in Hamtic municipality in Antique province when the crash happened on Tuesday afternoon, Antique Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Roderick Train said. Seven people were in critical condition in a hospital and four others were stable, Train said, describing the section of road as “accident prone.” One Kenyan national was among those killed, and a second Kenyan was among those critically injured. The bus, which came from