There’s been lots in the news this week about attacks on Google accounts by unknown hackers somehow linked to Chinese Authorities.
December 2008: Google Chrome web browser launched to general public.
3rd December 2009: Google appoints glue London and BBH Labs to handle global communications strategy and advertising for its Chrome browser. (source: Marketing Week)
16th December: Billboard poster campaign for Google Chrome extended from UK to include other European countries (source: TechCrunch Europe)
December 2009. Google Chrome achieves No3 spot in the market with just 4.63% market share (source: NetApplications)
13th January 2010: Google complains that [Chinese Government or its agents] have hacked into Google accounts of dozens of Chinese Human Rights activists and it is considering withdrawal from China. It made a Global public statement before even discussing this with the Chinese authorities.
14th January: Microsoft accepts that the hackers used a weakness identified in Microsofts browser Internet Explorer 6
Microsoft confirms these were highly targeted and sophisticated attacks by highly motivated people. It is working on a security patch, and does not believe this will have major implications for the vast majority of its users.
15th January: McAfee chief technology officer George Kurtz explains that the code required for other hackers to target the vulnerability has been published on the web.
15th January: German Federal Office for Information Security advises its citizens to try another browser until the flaw is patched. This information circulated globally by news organisations.
Some key questions:
How does Google know these people are Chinese human rights advocates? Has it been reading their G-Mails?
Would it be easy to predict that The Chinese Government would not comment on the hacking allegations, and that (based on prior experience) Western opinion will automatically assume that they are the guilty party.
Who advised the German Government to intervene with a statement advising consumers to trial another web browser, at a time when Google was advertising heavily across Europe?
Would Google have been aware of (or been looking for) vulnerabilities in their competitor Internet Explorer before this attack?
Would Google be capable of a highly targeted and sophisticated attack by highly motivated people on its number 1 competitor?
Would Google risk its position in China to generate huge trial of its new Browser in the rest of the world?
It must be very difficult for Google to persuade consumers to switch from their usual browser.
One of the best ways to effect change is to make the Status Quo look like the scarier option.
Ill leave you to draw your own conclusions and point the finger where you will, but this all seems to have fallen into place very neatly for Google doesnt it?.
Or am I just being Evil ?
18th January 2010
Chris Collis is a Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk, an independent Marketing Strategy and outsourcing house.