It looks like this is shaping up to be quite the week in cyber war. CNN is reporting that senior United States government officials' -- rumored to include DoD staff -- private Gmail accounts were hacked by phishing attacks believed by Google to have originated in Jinan, China.
The account hijackings were a result of stolen passwords, likely by malware installed on victims' computers or through victims' responses to e-mails from malicious hackers posing as trusted sources. That type of hack is known as phishing. Gmail's security systems themselves were not compromised, Google said.Apparently, DHS and the FBI are investigating. Just yesterday we wrote about how U.S. defense contractors -- a pretty obvious target -- are "bleeding" sensitive information due to cyber espionage and earlier in the week the Pentagon announced that it was considering certain cyber attacks acts of war that may elicit a kinetic response.
The company believes the phishing attack emanated from Jinan, China. In addition to the U.S. government personnel, other targets included South Korean government officials and federal workers of several other Asian countries, Chinese political activists, military personnel and journalists.
The hackers were monitoring emails sent from the accounts and in some cases, altered the officials mail forwarding settings, according to CNN.
The Chinese government, of course, is denying that it had anything to do with this latest incident. No, Chinese intelligence officials would never want to collect personal information on U.S. authorities. What spy agency has ever tried such a thing! Uh huh.
"We firmly oppose computer hacking or any illegal activity that harms net security and will severely punish anyone engaging in such activity according to law," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei. "Computer hacking is an international problem and China is also a victim. Any accusation linking China to such activity is baseless and with ulterior motives."