Google is urging users to check settings on their Gmail accounts, after discovering a recent attack from China that snared hundreds of prominent targets.
The newly disclosed breach appears to have originated from Jinan in China, and used highly targeted attacks to gain access to the personal Gmail accounts of senior US 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 people's forwarding and delegation settings," said Eric Grosse, an engineering director with the Google security team, in a blog posting.
"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."
Google said that its fraud analysis software, along with a blogged malware report, had detected the attacks, and that core security systems had not been breached. Users had most likely been socially engineered into giving up their passwords.
The company is recommending that users enable the two-factor authentication on their accounts, review their security and forwarding settings, and consider switching to Google's Chrome browser.
Google withdrew its support for Chinese censorship policies last year after suffering a hacking attack, dubbed project Aurora, that went for some of the biggest companies in the world, including Intel, Adobe and Morgan Stanley.
The Chinese government denied being behind the attack, but a diplomatic cable revealed via WikiLeaks showed that the US government agreed with Google and that the attacks were ordered by a senior member of the Chinese politburo.
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