Six months ago, I blocked Russia and China from all my personal web servers. My friends said this was a bad idea – not only for search engine optimistion (SEO) purposes, but also claimed I had managed to create a ‘racist server’! I was not proud of this decision, which was made after careful observation that the majority of all hack attacks, brute force ftp attacks, spoofs and intrusion attempts came from Chinese machines and IP addresses. Taking this action has cut my monitoring and maintenance times to less than a tenth of what they were and relieved much of the strain on my computers.
Due to the scale of these operations, I had become certain that this was more than a band of geeks doing their thing. Such elaborate hacks with seemingly limitless resources suggested someone was systematically providing them these resources, intelligence and a safe haven for their activities without fear of prosecution.
Google Hack Targeted Human Rights Activists
Until now, these have been paranoid thoughts I have been kept locked away in my own mind. But today, this all changed when Google announced a recent ’sophisticated’ GMail attack on their servers from China. They claim to have uncovered evidence that the goal of the attack was to access the private GMail accounts of Chinese human rights activists which have long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. This suggests that my worst suspicions may not be far from the truth, raising broader questions about free speech which Google cover in today’s announcement.
The purpose of the Internet that Tim Berners-Lee envisaged was – of course – about bringing people together. But people invariably bring ideas with them, and many of these ideas do not agree. Geographical distance provided a convenient partition space for these ideas to co-exist, but these partitions dissapear on the Internet.
A Pivotal Moment for the Internet
I believe this recent clash between Google and China will mark a pivotal moment for the Internet itself. From a political standpoint, we will see the cooling of already chilly relationships to all-new sub-zero temperatures. Google’s next move will leave a lasting imprint on the history of the Internet itself. In today’s official post, Google reminded China that they were not happy censoring results in the country – a move designed to appease the Chinese government some time ago. They went on to say they will revisit this decision, and the broader idea of all their operations in China:
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China
Google’s message could not be clearer – they are considering withdrawing from China altogether. I hope this is not the case, as this is not allowing the humans to resolve their differences, but avoiding the question altogether. Any webmasters who are interested in being able to block an entire country such as China should visit Okean.com, which gives the .htaccess rules for Apache. This will obviously not protect your other services though! I will certainly be watching Google’s next move with baited breath.