Stanford student was victim of Google cyber attack

January 15, 2010 7:26:47 PM PST
A 20-year-old Stanford University student is one of the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack on Google and others. The incident has members of Congress putting pressure on companies doing business in China.

Tenzin Seldon does not look like the type of person to be targeted for a cyber attack, but that is exactly what happened to the Stanford sophomore.

She was told by Google last week that someone from China was logged onto her e-mail account at the same time she was.

"It kind of speaks volumes about China to be quite honest, the fact that they're able to invest and willing to invest so much of their resources into monitoring my e-mails, a 20-year-old girl from Stanford," Seldon said.

However, Seldon is also a human rights activist; she is a coordinator for the group Students for a Free Tibet.

"If I'm going through this, what about the people in Tibet and China, what are they going through? They're under constant scrutiny by the Chinese government," Seldon said.

Stanford University President John Hennessy sits on the Google board of directors. He is disturbed by what happened to one of his students.

"That could have led to consequences for other people with whom that student was interacting. It's very concerning and it sets a question about how we're going to interact with countries around the world that would allow such thing to occur," he said.

That very concern set off sparks at a congressional hearing at Stanford Friday looking into export controls on technology. China was in the crosshairs.

"We have a potential adversary who is the worst human rights abuser in the world, but we have companies that are making enormous profits, short-term profits, by taking our technology over there and improving their capabilities," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Orange County, said.

Google has threatened to pull out of China.

"If the rules imposed by the government are so onerous and wrong, you can't do business there," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said.

The other 20 companies also attacked have not said if they will quit China.

The ramifications of the cyber attack are not over. Internet security company McAfee says the malicious code has now been made public on the Internet. That could lead to copycat attacks.