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Saturday, June 4, 2011

U.S. government officials Gmail Accounts hacked: Mass Gmail phishing attack

Hundreds of personal Gmail accounts, including those of some senior U.S. government officials, were hacked as a result of a massive phishing scheme originating from China, Google said Wednesday.

The account hijackings were a result of stolen passwords, likely by malware installed on victims' computers or through victims' responses to e-mails from malicious hackers posing as trusted sources. That type of hack is known as phishing. Gmail's security systems themselves were not compromised, Google said.

The company believes the phishing attack emanated from Jinan, China. In addition to the U.S. government personnel, other targets included South Korean government officials and federal workers of several other Asian countries, Chinese political activists, military personnel and journalists.

"The Department of Homeland Security is aware of Google's message to its customers," said Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the agency. "We are working with Google and our federal partners to review the matter, offer analysis of any malicious activity, and develop solutions to mitigate further risk."

The news comes a little more than a year after a separate hack originating from China affected Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. In that case, attackers were able to break through Google's security systems, and two Gmail accounts were hacked.
That cyber attack set off a series of events that eventually led to Google ending its agreement with the Chinese government to censor certain search results, and the company physically moved its servers out of the country.

On Thursday, after the most recent cyber attack, a Chinese official insisted that his government takes the attacks seriously.

"We firmly oppose computer hacking or any illegal activity that harms net security and will severely punish anyone engaging in such activity according to law," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei. "Computer hacking is an international problem and China is also a victim. Any accusation linking China to such activity is baseless and with ulterior motives."

This time around, the hack appears larger in scope -- but Google itself was not attacked. A person with knowledge of the attack's details said there was no apparent correlation between last year's attack and this one.

For full story v