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.