Google issued a warning to their users yesterday in a blog post, as they believe some of their users may be vulnerable to state-sponsored attacks directed at human-rights activists, journalists, officials and military personnels.
Eric Grosse, Google’s VP Security Engineering, stated how the company is always on the lookout for malicious activities on their system, particularly attacks from third parties performing unauthorized access to users’ e-mail accounts. Grosse assures users that they do not issue warning without ample evidence to support their claim.
Here’s the rest of Google’s warning:
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 here:
If you see this warning it does not necessarily mean that your account has been hijacked. It just means that we believe you may be a target, of phishing or malware for example, and that you should take immediate steps to secure your account. Here are some things you should do immediately: create a unique password that has a good mix of capital and lowercase letters, as well punctuation marks and numbers; enable 2-step verification as additional security; and update your browser, operating system, plugins, and document editors. Attackers often send links to fake sign-in pages to try to steal your password, so be careful about where you sign in to Google and look for https://accounts.google.com/ in your browser bar. These warnings are not being shown because Google’s internal systems have been compromised or because of a particular attack.
You might ask how we know this activity is state-sponsored. 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.
We believe it is our duty to be proactive in notifying users about attacks or potential attacks so that they can take action to protect their information. And we will continue to update these notifications based on the latest information.
Though the warning did not mention anyone in particular, Gmail users from China, US and Japan reported seeing the warning. But some think that the warning is pertaining to state-sponsored hackers in China which is related to Beijing’s massive Internet censorship network. Google stated that they would start alerting Chinese users if they are searching for terms likely to be blocked in Mainland China.