Chinese cyber attack suspected by Santa Barbara tech firm
A day after Internet giant Google said it might pull out of China because of massive cyber attacks from that country, the lawyers for a Santa Barbara software firm that recently sued the Chinese government said they had been hit by Trojan viruses from China.
On Jan. 5, Cybersitter filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles. It sued the Chinese government and seven big computer manufacturers for $2.2 billion, accusing them of conspiring to steal its code and distribute 56 million copies of a censoring program that contained the allegedly pilfered lines.
Cybersitter’s law firm in the case, Los Angeles-based Gipson Hoffman & Pancione, said that on the evening of Jan. 11 it began receiving Trojan e-mails designed to look like they came from members of the firm. Trojans are usually designed to help their creators gain access to the victim’s servers.
The firm said it doesn’t yet know whether the attackers got into its servers. But it does believe the Trojans came from China.
Cybersitter’s lawsuit was highly publicized by the firm — it gained traction in national and global media outlets — and politically charged. The law firm’s press materials alleged the Chinese government stole the Santa Barbara firm’s code and used it in government-mandated censorship software that clamped down on Internet freedom in the world’s most populous country.
Greg Fayer, the attorney who filed the 36-page complaint against the Chinese government, said he can’t be sure the attacks from China were related to his firm’s high-profile litigation against Chinese authorities. But he does suspect a connection.
“I don’t believe that the timing of it was a coincidence,” Fayer told the Business Times. “We filed our lawsuit less than a week before the cyber attacks started. It’s something we take very seriously, and we’re cooperating with [the FBI] on their investigation.”
Cybersitter’s lawyers disclosed the Chinese Trojans shortly after Google said it and a number of other firms had suffered massive cyber attacks that appeared to come from China.
Google said Jan. 12 that it would stop censoring its Chinese search site, which analysts said might have as many as 40 million users, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. Google also threatened to cease its Chinese operations.
Yahoo and Microsoft have also faced criticism for bowing to Chinese censorship demands in exchange for access to one of the world’s fastest-growing Internet markets.