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Google Cyberattack Opens the Door to Big Brother in U.S. Business

So Google (GOOG) plans to team up with the NSA to investigate the recent cyberattacks emanating from China. This is probably the first of many such arrangements, as the nature of hacking against American businesses has fundamentally changed in the last few years.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair called the Google attacks a "wake-up call" that requires a "collaborative effort that incorporates both the U.S. private sector and our international partners." In other words, American business should buckle up for more Big Brother.

A new report by Virginia security firm Mandiant details the full extent of the problem. "The scope of this is much larger than anybody has ever conveyed," CEO Kevin Mandia told Wired. "There's not 50 companies compromised. There are thousands of companies compromised. Actively, right now." These are not one-off incursions by criminals. According to a new report from McAfee (MFE) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there is a rise in attacks by high-level adversaries like foreign nation-states.

The great irony in all this, of course, is that Google was hacked through a back door it created for the U.S. government. "An infrastructure conducive to surveillance and control invites surveillance and control, both by the people you expect and by the people you don't," security analyst Bruce Schneier wrote at CNN. "Whether the eavesdroppers are the good guys or the bad guys, these systems put us all at greater risk. So what's really safer: cozying up to Big Brother, or going it on your own? Business leaders in China, where government and industry enjoy an especially high level of cooperation, report feeling safer and suffering fewer attacks, especially compared to other developing nations like Brazil and India. But asking Chinese businessmen their opinion on national security in like surveying Catholics on the piety of the Pope.

Americans are typically wary of sharing information with the government. But the public announcement of the Google hack, and subsequent revelations about the scope of the breech, really blew the lid off the long simmering secret that U.S. companies are the victims of persistent, sophisticated espionage. If these kind of high level attacks continue, we'll increastingly see American businesses collaborating with government on cybersecurity. Whether this will leave any of them -- or us -- safer remains an open question.

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