Report: Google, NSA talk defense partnership

Electronic surveillance agency is finalizing an agreement to help Google ward off cyberattacks like those that originated in China, according to The Washington Post.

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Google is finalizing an agreement with the National Security Agency to help the search giant ward off cyberattacks, according to the Washington Post.

The electronic surveillance organization is expected to help analyze a cyberattack on Google that the company said originated in China, so that the company can better defend itself against future attacks, the newspaper reported Wednesday. The arrangement is reportedly being designed to allow the two groups to share information without violating Google's privacy policies or laws governing online communications.

Google declined to comment on the report.

The NSA said it works with a variety of partners but would not comment on whether Google is one of those partners.

"NSA is not able to comment on specific relationships we may or may not have with U.S. companies," an NSA spokesperson said in a statement. "We can say as a general matter, however, that as part of its longstanding Information Assurance Mission, NSA works with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates to ensure the availability of secure tailored solutions for Department of Defense and national security systems customers today and cutting-edge technologies that will secure the information systems of tomorrow."

Google disclosed in January that e-mail accounts belonging to human rights activists in China had been compromised and said the attacks originated in China. The company said it discovered the attacks in mid-December. And while it did not specifically implicate the Chinese government, Google said it may withdraw from doing business in China.

China's government responded by reiterating that companies doing business in that country must respect and adhere to its laws and later issued statements denying any state involvement in the cyberattacks, as well as defending its Internet censorship. China also warned of strained U.S.-China relations after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton formally denounced Internet censorship in a speech.

White House Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Wednesday that the attacks on Google were a "wake-up call" and that the U.S. is severely under threat of greater cyberattacks. Blair detailed a laundry list of adversaries on the cyberwarfare front, including other nations, terrorist networks, and organized crime groups, all of whom have the knowledge and means to attack U.S. networks to disrupt operations and steal sensitive information.

Those comments came after a recent McAfee report found that critical infrastructure networks around the world were subject to repeated cyberattacks from foreign governments and other high-level adversaries that could lead to down time costs of more than $6 million per day.

Updated February 4 at 1:55 p.m. PST to add NSA statement.