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[liberationtech] MEDIA: Stanford student targeted in cyberattack -- Delete if not interested

Yosem Companys ycompanys at
Wed Jan 20 16:17:09 PST 2010

 Stanford student targeted in Google cyberattack

By Mike Swift

mswift at<>
Posted: 01/14/2010 06:16:35 PM PST
Updated: 01/16/2010 04:17:29 AM PST

When Tenzin Seldon, a 20-year-old sophomore at Stanford, logged onto her
Gmail account from New York over winter break, she may have helped Google
understand the widespread penetration of its network by unidentified hackers
in China.

 Tenzin Seldon, a 20-year-old sophomore at Stanford whose Gmail account...
(LiPo Ching, Mercury News)

Unknown to Seldon, a regional coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet, at
the same moment she was reading her e-mail in Queens, someone in China was
logged into her account as well. Top Google officials, including chief legal
officer David Drummond, later told Seldon that the suspicious situation
alerted them that she was one of the human rights activists whose electronic
mail was routinely being spied upon by someone in China.

 A decal for Students for a Free Tibet on the laptop of Tenzin Seldon,...
(LiPo Ching, Mercury News)

"That the long arm of Chinese security could reach all the way to my home
here at Stanford is something I never would have suspected," said Seldon,
the first activist targeted in the cyberattack to be identified. "It's very
disturbing when your Gmail account, which is as personal as it gets, can be
hacked into and breached."

Following the company's detection of widespread cyberspying on the Gmail
accounts of human rights activists in the United States, China and Europe,
Google said this week that it will consider closing its operations in China,
unless the government stops forcing Google to censor its search engine.

While Google has acquiesced at filtering its search results on<>,
the attack on activists such as Seldon appears to have precipitated the
company's bombshell declaration. According to Google officials, her black
Hewlett-Packard laptop with the red Stanford "S" sticker on the outside was
one of perhaps two machines Google examined for signs of malicious software,
or "malware," that would have allowed cyberspies entry to her Gmail account.

Despite spending six days going through her laptop in early January, Google
was unable to find any signs of malware on it. An industry source familiar
with the case said her laptop may have been infected with a sophisticated
form of malware programmed to harvest and relay back Gmail passwords, before
erasing itself from her hard drive.

Seldon says she never remembers opening any suspicious e-mail attachments,
and that she has never shared her password with anyone. Most recently, she
has been involved with the case of Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker who
she said was imprisoned by the government after making a documentary about
the frustration of Tibetans living under Chinese rule.

Seldon's parents were Tibetan farmers who fled to India about 1960 to remain
close to the Dalai Lama, after China's annexation of Tibet. She grew up in
India and attended high school in the Bay Area. Biking through campus with a
black pony tail, a large backpack stuffed with her laptop and a red plastic
water bottle, Seldon looked like a typical undergraduate Thursday, rather
than an international activist. But she speaks four languages fluently and
is among a very few members of the Tibetan exile community in India who have
made it to Stanford.

"The fact that the Chinese government is intimidated by a 20-year-old is
kind of sad," she said in a conversation on campus.

Underlying the gravity of the situation for Google, Marty Lev, the company's
director of safety and security, showed up at her dorm to pick up her
laptop. A Google spokesman confirmed Seldon's account of her conversations
with Drummond and Lev.

She plans to go into politics later in life — perhaps in Tibet, perhaps in
the United States. She said she is thrilled about the censorship stance
Google is taking, because she believes the Chinese government will relent
and allow Tibetans in China to see photos of the Dalai Lama on the Internet.

And Seldon plans to continue her activism.

"I'm a Tibetan person. If I don't speak on their behalf, who will?"

Contact Mike Swift at 408-271-3648.

 Flowers put by Chinese Google users are seen on its sign outside the
Google... ( Vincent Thian )
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