US investigators are hot on the trail of an enigmatic Chinese hacker who allegedly developed the "critical" programming code used to attack Google and other western companies.
According to the Financial Times, positive identification of the accused hacker would make it "far harder" for the Chinese government to deny its involvement in the recent cyber offensive.
"A freelance security consultant in his 30s wrote the part of the program that used a previously unknown security hole in the Internet Explorer web browser to break into computers and insert the spyware," wrote Joseph Menn of the FT.
"Chinese officials had special access to the work of the author, who posted pieces of the program to a hacking forum and described it as something he was 'working on.'"
However, Menn noted that the individual who wrote the exploit code wasn't a full-time government worker, did not launch the attack and would have preferred to avoid involvement in such "offensive" efforts.
"If he wants to do the research he's good at, he has to toe the line now and again," a US analyst who profiled the alleged hacker told the Financial Times.
"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 state has privileged access to these researchers' work."