Google will begin warning users of state-sponsored attacks

By Lee Kaelin on June 6, 2012, 10:30 AM

Internet search giant Google has announced it will begin alerting Gmail users if they are being subjected to what it calls "suspected state-sponsored" attacks as well as offering advice on how to have additional layers of security to prevent unauthorized access.

While the new warning that appears at the top of the Gmail window of affected users will likely cause alarm, Google said it will issue the warning anytime it picks up malicious activity on a user's Gmail account, and is an indication that third parties could be trying to gain unauthorized access to their account.

"Today, we're taking that a step further for a subset of our users, who we believe may be the target of state-sponsored attacks. You can see what this new warning looks like [below]," Eric Grosse, Google's vice president of Security Engineering said on the company's official Google Security blog

Google also pointed out that the warning doesn't necessarily mean the user's account has been hijacked, just that their intelligence suggests it's a target, possibly by malware or other phishing attacks, and that users who see the warning should immediately take additional security measures to reduce the potential risk of the account being compromised.

The firm remains tight lipped about how it identifies an individual's account as being subjected to State-Sponsored attacks, but did offer a brief insight into the process.

"We can't go into the details without giving away information that would be helpful to these bad actors, but our detailed analysis—as well as victim reports—strongly suggest the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored," said Grosse in his blog post.  

State-Sponsored attacks have been linked to a number of countries, with China and Russia topping the list, as well as a wave of attacks against human rights campaigners, aid workers, journalists and bloggers working in the Middle East.

User Comments: 6

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Tygerstrike said:

With China and Russia topping the list, can we see the whole list of suspected countries accused of this type of attack?

psycros psycros said:

Why only state-sponsored? Why not warnings about <b>all</b> email tampering attempts, zero-day outbreaks, etc? I smell politicking at work.

Guest said:

In reality, U.S. Citizens accounts are more likely to be compromised by by U.S. Federal forces, unconstitutionally, than they are being compromised by outside forces... True Story...

Leeky Leeky said:


Attacks originate from, or are accused of originating from China and Russia in the majority of these situations -- That isn't to say other attacks don't originate from other sources. I was just giving two examples.

My point was acknowledging that fact. While the statistics no doubt exist, the comments were not made with them in mind, but instead with the general consensus that it's often the case.

TJGeezer said:

In reality, U.S. Citizens accounts are more likely to be compromised by by U.S. Federal forces, unconstitutionally, than they are being compromised by outside forces... True Story...

Unconstitutionally? What constitution? You mean the "goddam piece of paper" (Dubya's words) that has now been replaced by a Supreme Court majority that canceled an election to appoint a coke- and religion-addled rich boy as president and that reassigned the Bill of Rights to corporations?

Guest said:

Sounds like Google will be warning US & EU agents and/or persons working for such in various states of special interest for the former parties, that they are being targetted by the intelligence services of their states of residence. No need to be into rocket science to figure out that they mean Iran, Syria, Turkey, China, Taiwan, Korea, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Spain, in that order.

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