July 15, 2024

F.B.I. to Investigate Gmail Attacks Said to Come From China

Mrs. Clinton characterized the charges as “very serious” and said that the Obama administration was disturbed by the charges of the attacks, aimed at stealing the passwords and monitoring the e-mail of several hundred people, including senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists.

“We are obviously very concerned about Google’s announcement,” Mrs. Clinton said. “These allegations are very serious, we take them seriously, we’re looking into them.”

She referred reporters to Google for details, “and to the F.B.I., which will be conducting the investigation.”

It is the second time that Google has pointed to areas in China as the source of an Internet intrusion. Last year, Google said it had traced a sophisticated invasion of its computer systems to people based in China.

The accusation led to a rupture of the company’s relationship with China and a decision by Google not to cooperate with China’s censorship demands. As a result, Google decided to base its mainland Chinese search engine in Hong Kong. Its latest announcement is likely to further ratchet up the tension between the company and the Chinese authorities.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the government had no involvement in any such attacks, declaring that it “consistently opposes any criminal activities that damage the Internet and computer networks including hacking and cracks down on these activities according to law.”

“Hacking is an international issue, and China is also a victim of hacking,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to an official transcript. “The claim that China supports hacking is completely created out of nothing, and is out of ulterior motives.”

A report by Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, on the episode repeatedly questioned Google’s credibility and past practices, saying that the company “arbitrarily pointed its finger at China” with “baseless complaints.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it would be reviewing the new allegations.

“We are aware of Google’s announcement regarding attempts to obtain passwords and gain access to these accounts,” said Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman. “We are working with Google to review this matter.”

The more recent attacks were not as technically advanced, relying on a common technique known as phishing to trick users into handing over their passwords. But Google’s announcement was unusual in that it put a spotlight on the scale, apparent origins and carefully selected targets of a coordinated campaign to hijack e-mail accounts.

Google said that once the intruders had logged into the accounts, they could change settings for mail forwarding so that copies of messages would be sent to another address. The company said it had “disrupted” the efforts and had notified the victims as well as government agencies. Executives at Google declined to comment beyond the blog post. The company recommended that Gmail users take additional security steps, like using a Google service known as two-step verification, to make it more difficult to compromise their e-mail accounts. But Google said that the password thefts were not the result of a general security problem with Gmail.

Google acknowledged that it had been alerted to the problem in part by Mila Parkour, a security researcher in Washington who posted evidence of a type of phishing attack on her blog in February. She documented examples of what had been described as a “man-in-the-mailbox” attack, in which the intruder uses the account of one victim and his e-mail contacts to gain the trust of a new victim.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 2, 2011

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the founder and chief technology officer of Palo Alto Networks. He is Nir Zuk, not Nir Zuck.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5d5cf95799af88fdae6826d89c122f5b

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