MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Google Inc. Tuesday said it "may well" shut down its operations in China because of a computer network attack on its e-mail service.
In a statement, Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said "a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China" was discovered last month. Evidence, he said, suggests attackers were trying to access Google e-mail accounts -- known as Gmail -- of Chinese human rights activists.
The statement said it does not appear the attack succeeded but two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed. Google said at least 20 other companies have been the targets of similar attacks and it is notifying the companies and "working with the relevant U.S. authorities."
The statement said Google has also determined the accounts of dozens of Gmail users in the United States, China and Europe "who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties."
Drummond said the attacks, along with attempts in China to limit free speech on the Internet, have led Google to reconsider whether it should continue to do business in China.
"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," the statement said. "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."