The Washington Post says US Officials claimed Chinese hackers breached Google to determine who the US wanted Google to spy on. In essence the 2010 Aurora attack was a counter-counter-espionage effort to determine who the US government was monitoring. From the Post’s post:

Chinese hackers who breached Google’s servers several years ago gained access to a sensitive database with years’ worth of information about U.S. surveillance targets, according to current and former government officials. The breach appears to have been aimed at unearthing the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the United States who may have been under surveillance by American law enforcement agencies.

… and …

Last month, a senior Microsoft official suggested that Chinese hackers had targeted the company’s servers about the same time Google’s system was compromised. The official said Microsoft concluded that whoever was behind the breach was seeking to identify accounts that had been tagged for surveillance by U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies.

Wow. Like it or not, the US government ensnared US companies to spy on their customers and users. If the Chinese motivation is as claimed, Google was targeted because it was known to be collecting data on suspected spies. It will be interesting to see whether this announcement generates some pushback, either by companies refusing to cooperate, or – as many companies have done – by removing infrastructure that tracks specific users. Paining a target on your back and placing yourself in a situation where your servers could be seized is a risk most firms can’t afford.