Google warns Gmail users about state-sponsored email hacking

Posted at 6:59 AM, Jun 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-06 06:59:14-04

(WTVR) – Google is now warning users if state-sponsored phishing or malware attacks appear to have targeted their Gmail accounts.

In such cases, a notice will appear at the top of the Gmail page that says “Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer.”

If that warning appears, it doesn’t mean the account was successfully hijacked. It just means that the account appears to have been a target, and that Google is urging the account holder to change the password and set up additional security precautions.

In addition to creating a strong password that combines lowercase and capital letters, numbers and punctuation marks, Gmail users are advised to set up two-step verification that texts a one-time code to the account holder’s phone to enable a login.

There are other general security measures that everyone should take, Google suggests. These include updating the browser, operating system, plugins, and document editors, and being wary of links in e-mails or on non-Google Web sites that ask for your Gmail password. The legitimate Google account log-in site will have this: in the browser bar.

Google didn’t mention any specific countries that might be behind the attacks, but given its past warnings, China is likely one of the suspected culprits. Despite the fact that the use of proxy servers and other technologies make it difficult to trace attacks back to their source, Google was quick to blame China for a sophisticated attack on it and a host of other companies in early 2010.