Google said this week that it’s notifying the other companies, which spanned such industries as finance, technology, media and chemicals. Google declined to identify them. The Chinese attacks also included hackers going after human-rights activists via their Gmail e-mail accounts, Google said.
The popularity of Yahoo’s e-mail service could have made it a target, said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of the Search Engine Land site in Redding, Connecticut. “People are looking for places to communicate, and communicate without the Chinese authorities restricting them.”
Yahoo, which said it “stands aligned” with Google in condemning the attacks, doesn’t disclose attacks on its computer systems. Yahoo sold its Chinese business in 2005, though it has a stake in the country’s Alibaba Group.
“Yahoo does not generally disclose that type of information, but we take security very seriously and we take appropriate action in the event of any kind of breach,” the company said in a statement.
After Google’s announcement, Adobe Systems Inc. said its network systems also were attacked, in a “sophisticated, coordinated” effort. San Jose, California-based Adobe, the world’s biggest maker of graphic-design programs, didn’t say where the attack originated.
Google, the most popular search engine, said this week it would end self-censorship of its product in China. Depending on how the government reacts, the Mountain View, California-based company said it may have to close its site and shut down offices in the country.
The Chinese government said global Internet companies are welcome in the country provided they obey laws that restrict their content.
“The Chinese government administers the Internet according to law and we have explicit stipulations over what content can be spread on the Internet,” Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a regular briefing in Beijing today.
A separate Chinese government official today defended the nation’s right to censor the Internet.
“Effective guidance of public opinion on the Internet is an important way of protecting the security of online information,” Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, said in a question-and-answer session with reporters, a transcript of which was posted on the office’s Web site today.
Wang’s remarks suggest China will not grant Google’s request to allow unfiltered Internet searches, said Duncan Clark, the Beijing-based chairman of BDA China, a telecommunications and Internet consulting company.
“Google.cn is toast,” Clark said in an interview. “Just keep pressing refresh on your browser and see what happens.”
An exit would leave Google on the sidelines of an Internet market that’s larger than the U.S. population. The number of Chinese Internet users should grow to 840 million, or 61 percent of the population, by 2013, according to EMarketer Inc. in New York. That’s up from 396 million, or 30 percent of the population, last year.
Google and Yahoo were criticized by U.S. lawmakers in 2006 for complying with the Chinese government’s restrictions on the Internet. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang said in 2005 that a court order obliged the Sunnyvale, California-based company to hand over user records. That move led to the conviction of a Chinese journalist.
Yahoo fell 3 cents to $16.87 at 9:35 a.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Google dropped 28 cents to $586.81.