A Capital Idea in Google China
With the postscript "Enjoy the liberation while you can, citizens," the Web site Crypticide recently unleashed a way to beat Googles censoring of its new Chinese search engine results.
The trick of entering search terms in capital letters worked for about six hours. Crypticides readers noted how quickly Google acted, and that now it was onto finding some other means around Googles great wall around China.
The recent events from Jan. 29 to Jan. 30 dramatize how Googles escapades in China have catalyzed a large number of hackers, both of good and bad intentions, and that the contest of wills between the two interests is now only just beginning.
Google is censoring results of www.google.cn, which launched a few days ago.
The catalyst for all the hacks is Googles announcement that the results available through the site are censored at the governments behest. Its a noble tradeoff, Google argues.
The company didnt immediately reply to a request seeking comment for this story.
From a hackers perspective, the target on Googles back has never been larger. Here is a leading Internet company with a rock star quality admitting to censorship.
Just as Google closes one door, hackers look for another. For instance, when the capital letter flaw was fixed, Crypticides Alec Muffett began looking for the next opening.
"Im satisfied the software was aware of the French, Italian, Spanish and German spellings of the word Democracy last night, so that particular avenue of exploitation is probably not open, but doubtless others are."
But the same motivation spurring hackers is also pushing into action civil rights groups and even ordinary Web users, people like 29-year-old Philadelphia resident Lee Revell.
"It seems like an incredibly noble use of bandwidth," the IT specialist said of the efforts, echoing comments he left on Dave Farbers IP List.
Workarounds are now available from Peacefire.org, which advocates for Internet free speech.
It couldnt immediately be determined whether its Circumventor program is still wading through Googles filters.
The program turns a computer using Microsofts ubiquitous Windows operating system into an egress to the unfiltered Net for Chinas dissidents to use.
Business has been on the upside lately for those services that mask IP addresses, which are the unique series of numbers assigned to every electronic device using the Internet. With masking software, its easier to get away with viewing unfiltered results.
Some Google watchers suggest Google needs not only to watch for enemies at its gates, but also keep watch for any conscience-stricken employees deliberately sabotaging the censorship programs.
How else, wrote one Crypticide commenter, do you explain the simple nature of the recently fixed capital letter flaw?
"If I worked at Google, I would do everything I possibly could to maximize the number of mistakes in this exceptional censorship mechanism," wrote Clive, a screen name.
Editors Note: This story was updated to add comments from Alec Muffett of Crypticide.
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