U.S. analysts have reportedly traced the programming code at the center of the cyber-attack on Google back to its author.
According to the Financial Times, the code was created by a Chinese “freelance security consultant.” The consultant, who is not a full-time government worker and is believed not to have taken part in the actual attack, reportedly posted the code to a hacking forum and described it as something he was “working on,” the Financial Times said.
The code in question was used to target a then-unpatched vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Microsoft closed the door on the bug in January.
The discovery follows revelations Feb. 19 that machines at two schools in China, Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Lanxiang Vocational School, were used in the attack. Speculation has centered on a China connection ever since Google first announced Jan. 12 it had been attacked. Though Google offered no direct evidence publicly, the company asserted that the attacks had originated in China and that there had been repeated attempts by hackers to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Chinese officials have denied involvement in the cyber-attacks, which affected more than 30 companies in addition to Google.