Google's threat to exit China in the wake of security attacks on Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents and human rights activists has roiled the high-tech sector, also has the company defending the cloud computing model it lovingly nurtures. David Girouard, president of Google's Enterprise group, defended the cloud in a blog post. Meanwhile, while financial analysts say Google banks about $300 million to its top-line from business in China, or roughly 1 percent of its revenues, exiting China could have severe consequences for Google's future business plans.
Google's threat to exit China in the wake of security attacks on Gmail accounts
of Chinese dissidents and human rights activists has roiled the high-tech
sector, recalling arguments against the cloud computing model Google famously
employs to provide Web services.
Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote in a blog post Jan. 12 that Google will cease censoring results on
Google.cn, and will discuss with the Chinese government whether or not the
company can continue to offer its search engine in China.
Drummond said the attack on Google's corporate infrastructure
resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google, though he declined
to specify what the hackers stole.
However, he also said the accounts of dozens of Gmail
users in the U.S., Europe and China who are advocates of human rights in China were
routinely accessed by third parties. Drummond stressed that these accounts were
compromised through phishing scams or malware, not through holes in Google's
computing infrastructure. This is a key point.
Google's hosts data from search, Gmail and other
collaboration programs that comprise Google Apps for millions of consumers on
thousands of servers in data centers all over the world as part of a cloud
computing model. When a Google user triggers a request from his or her
computer, it speeds to these servers, looking for a response.
While Drummond took pains to explain that at least 20
other companies were similarly attacked in China, David Girouard, president of
Google's Enterprise group, also sought to reassure the 2 million businesses
use Google Apps that the attacks were not directed at the cloud computing
model. He wrote:
"This was not an assault on cloud computing. It was
an attack on the technology infrastructure of major corporations in sectors as
diverse as finance, technology, media, and chemical. The route the attackers
used was malicious software used to infect personal computers.
connected to the Internet can fall victim to such attacks. While some
intellectual property on our corporate network was compromised, we believe our
customer cloud-based data remains secure."
Girouard said Google believes Google Apps and related
customer data -- hundreds of thousands of Google Apps users pay the company $50
per user, per year for Apps -- were not not affected by the hacks. Moreover,
Girouard took the opportunity to tout Google Apps' security. He added:
"While any company can be subject to such an attack,
those who use our cloud services benefit from our data security capabilities.
At Google, we invest massive amounts of time and money in security. Nothing is
more important to us.
Our response to this attack shows that we are dedicated
to protecting the businesses and users who have entrusted us with their
sensitive email and document information. We are telling you this because we
are committed to transparency, accountability, and maintaining your trust."