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US pinpoints author of Google attack code, says report

China had 'special access' to work

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

US investigators have pinpointed the author of a key piece of code used in the alleged cyber attacks on Google and at least 33 other companies last year, according to a new report.

Citing a researcher working for the US government, The Financial Times reports that a Chinese freelance security consultant in his 30s wrote the code that exploited a hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. The report also says that Chinese authorities had "special access" to this consultant's work and that he posted at least a portion of the code to a hacking forum.

The story follows another report from The New York Times that traced the attacks to a pair of Chinese schools - Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School - claiming that the latter had ties to the Chinese military. A day later, representatives of both schools denied involvement to the Chinese state news agency, and the Lanxiang representative denied ties to the military.

According to The Financial Times report, the unnamed security consultant who wrote the exploit code is not a full-time government worker and did not launch the attacks himself. In fact, the FT says, he "would prefer not to be used in such offensive efforts."

The reports says that when he posted the code to the hacking forum, he described it as something he was "working on."

With a January blog post, Google announced that attacks originating from China had pilfered unspecified intellectual property from the company, and Microsoft later said the attack had exploited a hole in its Internet Explorer 6 browser. According to security researchers, at least 33 other companies were targeted by similar attacks. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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