[obscurity-interest] An example: Report on gmail attacks

Dean Willis <dean.willis@softarmor.com> Mon, 21 March 2011 14:43 UTC

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From: Dean Willis <dean.willis@softarmor.com>
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Subject: [obscurity-interest] An example: Report on gmail attacks
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It looks like an enforcement regime is selectively disrupting Internet traffic for a particular application. If said traffic were properly obscured, the enforcement regime would not be able to selectively target it, but would be forced to either shut down "the whole Net", block all destinations that it does not control, or resort to off-net enforcement options.

For those of us who can't follow the URL above due to local policies, a plain-text fully attributed copy of the article follows. I have no personal knowledge of the validity of the report; it merely serves here as an example of a potential problem that we can avoid by better protocol design.

Google: China hacked Gmail
Once again, Google says China has tampered with Gmail in an attempt to squash Chinese political dissidents.

Google says the Chinese government hacked its Gmail service in an attempt to quell a social uprising in the country, reports the Guardian. The tampering has caused an array of problems for Chinese Gmail users.

For the past month, Chinese customers and advertisers have informed Google of problems related to sending messages. Marking messages, unread messages, and other functions have also reportedly caused issues.

The problem, says Google, isn’t with Gmail — it’s with the government of China, which designed an attack on the email system to look like the problem was with Gmail itself.

“Relating to Google there is no issue on our side,” a Google spokesman told the Guardian. “We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”

The attacks on Gmail are said to stem from attempts by the government to suppress a social uprising in China, known as the “Jasmine Revolution,” which followed anti-government protests in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Official word of the attack follows a Google blog post on March 11, which indicated that “some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks” had occurred against Google users. “We believe activists may have been a specific target,” wrote Google.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Google has had a run-in with meddling Chinese authorities. According to the search giant, China’s government launched targeted attacks against Google in a attempt to gain access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists. That debacle resulted in Google temporarily suspending government-enforced censorship of its Google.cn search results.

Google blaming China for hang-ups in Gmail serves as the most recent evidence that China is undergoing a major crackdown of political dissidents. Last week, news emerged that the country had closed 130,000 Internet cafes, cutting available access to 160 million Chinese Internet users.