China-Based Hackers Compromise Gmail Accounts, Google Says
Chinese hackers were able to breach Google’s Gmail system on Wednesday, breaking into several hundred accounts, some of which belong to top U.S. government officials, journalists, and activists, the Internet giant said.
“We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing,” Eric Grosse, Engineering Director, Google Security Team said in a blog post, adding that the attacks appear to have originated from Jinan province in China.
“The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings," he added.
Those affected included Chinese political activists, military personnel, and officials in Asian countries as well as in the U.S.
“Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevantgovernment authorities,” Grosse said.
“Phishing” is a tactic used to scam Gmail users into giving up personal information such as account names and passwords. The perpetrators use fake messages or webpages that appear to come from legitimate sources, like friends or organizations.
After obtaining the login and password, the hackers then use Gmail to forward the incoming e-mail to another account.
Grosse noted that the internal systems at Google were not affected. “These account hijackings were not the result of a security problem with Gmail itself,” he said. “But we believe that being open about these security issues helps users better protect their information online.”
There was not any indication that the latest attacks reported on Wednesday are linked to the China-based attack that prompted Google to leave China last year rather than allow regime-mandated censorship.