By Tony Romm - 02/22/10 03:28 PM EST
Federal investigators believe a Chinese man with government ties authored a substantial portion of the software used in a January cyberattack on Google and other U.S. businesses.
According to reports, the man shared the malicious code on a hacking forum as a work in progress, though he did not launch the attack himself.
But federal investigators did tell reporters that Chinese officials had "special access" to the code author in question. They did not clarify, though, how they discovered that link, or how significant the relationship was.
"If he wants to do the research he's good at, he has to toe the line now and again," a U.S. official told reporters about the hacker.
"He would rather not have uniformed guys looking over his shoulder, but there is no way anyone of his skill level can get away from that kind of thing," the official continued. "The state has privileged access to these researchers' work."
Ultimately, the hacker's relationship to the Chinese government is just one of many unanswered questions stemming from the coordinated January 12 cyberattack.
So far, investigators with the National Security Agency (NSA) have traced the incident to two prominent schools in China, one of which U.S. officials said had close ties to the military. However, both schools denied those allegations this weekend.