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Gmail Accounts Hacked

June 1, 2011

Gmail HackedBy Gilbert Falso :: 5:25 PM

Google announced today that hundreds of Gmail accounts have been hacked, including those belonging to senior U.S. government officials.

It appears to be the work of a hacker in China. In addition to the U.S. government personnel accounts, those belonging to military personnel, Chinese political activists and journalists were breached as well.

Google recognized the security breach, and described it as an effort that acquired users’ passwords and monitored their emails, as well as changing users settings for mail forwarding and delegating.

Once forwarding settings are changed, incoming emails can be routed anywhere, without the user being able to notice right away.

Google has notified victims of the attack, as well as relevant government authorities. In addition to U.S. government officials, government employees from South Korea have been affected as well.

The company released a blog post on the hack, which reads, in part:

“Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems*, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected 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.

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.

It’s important to stress that our internal systems have not been affected—these account hijackings were not the result of a security problem with Gmail itself. But we believe that being open about these security issues helps users better protect their information online.”

Filed under → Cybercrime, Google