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Google Accuses China of Hacking Gmail Accounts

In the midst of a blog post blandly titled “Ensuring your information is safe online,” Google lobs a bombshell of an accusation against the Chinese government: It says that it unearthed a Gmail account hijacking campaign, “which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affect[ing] what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists.”

Google’s backing for its accusations come in part from a thorough February 2011 blog post from researcher Mila Parkour of Contagio, which details several “spear phishing” methods by which hackers attempted to get the passwords and personal information from their targets. In the image above, for example, a fake Gmail login page is used to attempt to scoop up user passwords. Google:

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. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.)

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 relevant government authorities.

The Chinese government denies any connection with hacking attacks: “Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives,” an official said in a statement.

(via WSJ, PaidContent, Google. title pic via Contagio.)

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