Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CNBC that his company will look into a report that a flaw in Microsoft's Internet software allowed China to launch a cyber attack on Google's operations in that country.
Ballmer was responding to a report by the Internet security company McAfee that Microsoft's Internet Explorer allowed China to allegedly hack into Google email in an attempt to spy on Chinese dissidents. The alleged attack prompted Google to threaten to pull out of the country entirely.
"The cyber attacks and occasional vulnerabilities are a way of life and if the issue is with us, of course we will work through it with all the important parties," Ballmer said in a live interview. "We need to take a all cyber attacks, not just this one seriously and we have a whole team of people that responds very real-time to any report that may have something to do with our software, which we don't yet."
On Tuesday, Google said that in mid-December, it detected a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" on its corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google.
The world's largest Internet search engine said its investigation showed that not just Google but at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of businesses, including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical, had been similarly targeted.
Google said it had evidence suggesting that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
In its report, McAfee said tied Internet Explorer to the attack.
"In our investigation we discovered that one of the malware samples involved in this broad attack exploits a new, not publicly known vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer. We informed Microsoft about this vulnerability and Microsoft is expected to publish an advisory on the matter soon," George Kurtz, McAfee's chief technology officer, said in his blog on the company Web site.