Google on Wednesday issued a warning that hackers based in China weaseled their way into hundreds of Gmail accounts, including those of U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (mostly South Korea), military personnel, and journalists, among others. Every indication is that these were targeted attacks and not just random victims.
The search giant didn't indicate the names of individuals whose Gmail accounts were compromised, but citing "an official with knowledge of the breach," the Washington Post reports the personal Gmail account of one Cabinet-level official was hacked into. Lots of content was lifted from all of the breaches before the FBI was notified last week, and there was some discussion within Google whether or not to go public with the incident.
Google said the incident was likely the result of phishing, noting that "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."
This episode is the latest in an ongoing feud between Google and China. Google blamed China for an attack on its network last year, and these latest breaches appear to originate from the same location (Jinan, China). Chinese officials are denying involvement in the Gmail hacks.
"Any blame against China in this [latest incident] is groundless and with an ulterior motive," Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry official, said in a statement. "[The] Chinese government is firmly opposed to any cybercriminal activity, including hacking... [and] is ready to cooperate with the international community to combat against it."