announced that Chinese hackers are at it again -- this time, targeting Gmail
account holders. However, this isn't the first time that Google has come under
attack. In January 2010, Google suffered a cyber attack that used malicious
code called "Aurora," which targeted the Gmail accounts of human
rights activists. The attack was traced back to China, and Google ultimately
decided to partially pull out of China last year over issues regarding censorship.
This decision has put a growing strain on Google's relationship with China.
now announced that Chinese hackers have used phishing schemes to steal the
passwords of "hundreds of Google email account holders."
Google said the hack originated from the capital of China's eastern Shandong
province, Jinan. Jinan contains one of the six technical reconnaissance bureaus
that belong to the People's Liberation Army, as well as a technical college. A
previous attack on Google was traced back to this area before.
Technical reconnaissance bureaus are responsible for China's electronic
eavesdropping, and according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security
Commission, these bureaus are likely gearing toward the "defense or
exploitation of foreign networks."
is considered a hobby in China that the Chinese government
allegedly condones, Google didn't directly blame the Chinese government for the
recent attack. However, an anonymous former U.S. government official said the
Chinese government is likely partially responsible as a result of Beijing's
fears that "contagion from the Arab 'jasmine' uprisings could spread to
China." But the official also believes that independent Chinese citizens
are partially responsible as well, saying that they have the government's
approval to perform a security breach.
The Chinese government has denied Google's accusations regarding the recent
attacks, as it has in the past. For example, hacking attacks last year, which
targeted Google and over 20 other companies, were traced back to the Lanxiang
Vocational School in Jinan, but the school denied that it had anything to do
"Blaming these misdeeds on China is unacceptable," said Hong Lei,
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. "Hacking is an international problem
and China is also a victim. The claims of so-called Chinese state support for
hacking are completely fictitious and have ulterior motives."
The most recent attack on Gmail
accounts, which attempted to trick Gmail users into providing
personal information through the use of highly personalized messages and a
document for them to download, changed the email forwarding settings of Gmail
accounts in order to send emails to other accounts.
Luckily, Google was able to detect the hackers' attempts and notified the
victims immediately. The FBI is now working with Google following the attacks,
while Washington investigates Google's claims.
"We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely
through phishing," said said Google. "It 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, military personnel and journalists."
The Pentagon recently announced that cyber attacks on government entities could be considered an
act of war.
"We'll certainly see more of this in the future, as Chinese hackers --
independent and otherwise -- target Google because of its global popularity and
its decision to defy the Chinese government on censorship, which some hackers
will misconstrue as being anti-Chinese," said Michael Clendenin, managing
director of RedTech Advisors.
has become a major issue lately, with multinational companies being the
recipients of many of these attacks. For instance, consumer electronics
corporation Sony was hacked several times over
the last month, losing user information and credit card numbers linked to its PlayStation Network
(PSN) and Sony Online
Entertainment (SOE) databases. After that fiasco, the U.S.
government's top IT provider Lockheed Martin was
hacked through the use of stolen RSA information.
this week, Australia's government warned its resource corporations of
cyber attacks becoming more frequent, and worried that the country's resources
may be at risk as well after a successful cyber attack was launched against
Australia's parliament in February. What seems odd, though, is that Australia's
largest oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum, defended China, saying not to
"just pick on the Chinese."