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by James Perrin on 2nd June 2011
Google have announced that hundreds of personal email accounts have been compromised by hackers in China.
According to Sources, Google have explained that the hacking was targeted towards hundreds of US government officials, Chinese activists as well as journalists. However, Google managed to ‘detect and disrupt the campaign…and notified relevant government authorities’ according to their blog.
So what happened?
Well, Google say the executors of the hack actually originated from Jinan, the Capital of China’s Shandong province in the Eastern part of the country. Jinan is home to the People’s Liberation Army’s Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, along with five others Bureaus across the country.
According to a technical report from Google, the hackers used a scam called ‘Spear Phishing’, which tricks email users into divulging their login information on a web page that resembles their standard email or Gmail service. Hackers then inform Google to forward all incoming emails to a rogue account set up by the hackers themselves.
Google stressed that this attack has not affected their internal systems – everything is running as normal. This attack was not as a result of a security problem with Gmail, but a systematic effort to deceive Gmail users into giving away their account information.
Where do Google go from here?
It’s not been the first time this has happened, US investigators suggest this particular Bureau was linked to a previous attack on Google last year. Its systems were attacked, and an investigation traced it to China.
Once again this recent attack is going to place further strain on what is being described as an already tense relationship between the internet giant and the People’s Republic of China. Google and China have got previous – last year they threatened to walk away from the Chinese market as a result of hacks and heavy handed state censorship [See: Google Readying China Withdrawal].
So where does this latest hacking attempt leave Google now? An investigation will ensue; the White House are looking at the reports, they’re certain their e-mail accounts haven’t been affected, but they want to figure out whether it was the Chinese government or civilians who were responsible for this latest attack.
This could be the final nail in the coffin for Google in China. They have all but pulled out of China, a country who seem to be focussed on keeping western businesses out of their markets, as perfectly evidenced by the recent the Yahoo/Alibaba debacle [See: Yahoo’s Shares Drop after Sale of Alipay].
Considering this isn’t the first time this has happened, and that victims of this recent attack were users with sensitive and secret information, some sources are looking towards cyber attacks, or more specifically cyber espionage. Chinese government officials have come out and refuted the accusations almost instantly. It’s yet another chapter in the ongoing feud between the two, with such strong accusations things don’t look like easing up anytime soon.