The main newspaper of China’s Communist Party accused Google on Monday of being a “political tool” used to vilify the Chinese government, saying the Internet search giant had falsely accused China of a computer hack.
“Google’s accusations against China are fictitious and have ulterior motives and sinister intentions,” read the foreign edition of the People’s Daily, the leading newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
The paper charged Google with attempting to heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington in order to stifle cooperation on Internet security.
“Google should not become too involved in an international political struggle nor act as a tool in a political game,” the paper said in its editorial.
“Once the international wind changes direction, it may be sacrificed for politics, and could be abandoned by the market,” the editorial read.
Last week, Google announced it had been the victim of a cyber espionage campaign targeting Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials, journalists and activists. The attack, Google said, had seemingly originated from Jinan, capital of the eastern province of Shandong.
Although Google did not specifically blame the Chinese government, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it was “unacceptable” to point the finger at Beijing.
The People’s Daily said Google had “strongly hinted the cyberattack was the work of the Chinese government,” without providing any evidence.
“Google’s accusations are made up, have ulterior motives and vicious intentions,” the paper said.
Eric Grosse, director of Google’s security engineering team, wrote in a blog post that the company had “uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing.”
Members of the U.S. government, Chinese political activists, military personnel, journalists and officials in several Asian nations, mainly South Korea, were among those affected by the breach, he wrote.
The “phishing” scam used to deceive Gmail users into revealing account names and passwords reportedly involved fraudulent messages that appeared to the recipients to come from legitimate friends, colleagues or other groups.
Google’s charges mark the second time the company has reported a China-based cyberattack. Last year, a similar incident prompted Google to stop bowing to online censors and to shrink its presence in China.
Beijing adamantly denied any state involvement in that attack, which Google said was aimed at email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Since then, Google has lost a sizeable share of the profitable Chinese search market to local rival Baidu.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called Google’s claims “very serious”, although the White House said it was not aware that any official email accounts had been compromised.