Monday 27 February 2017

Hackers had access to US officials' mail 'for months'

Christopher Williams in London

Chinese spies enjoyed months of access to the personal Google emails of senior US officials and human rights activists, according to the US computer security expert responsible for accusations rejected by Beijing.

The web giant renewed the cyberspace espionage row yesterday after it published details of the attack and said it had traced the source to Jinan, in Shandong Province. It did not directly accuse the Chinese government but appeared to hint strongly at its involvement, prompting angry denials.

"Blaming these misdeeds on China is unacceptable," a spokesman for China's foreign ministry said. "Hacking is an international problem and China is also a victim. The claims of so-called support for hacking are completely unfounded and have ulterior motives."

Phishing

The first details of the attack emerged in February on the blog of "Mila Parkour", a computer security expert writing under a pseudonym, who found a "spear phishing" email on the systems of one of her clients. She alerted Google, which said on Wednesday that hundreds of "senior US government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists" were targeted.

Miss Parkour said: "They maintained full email access to mailboxes for a long time."

Google "detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users' passwords and monitor their emails", the company said.

US officials do not believe that any government networks were breached.

Security experts noted that Jinan is a regional command centre for China's People's Liberation Army and the alleged source of a more serious breach of Google's security in late 2009.

The company pulled out of China after hackers broke through its security systems to spy on human rights activists.

But Google's motives for going public about the hack attacks will be questioned in China, according to Michael Anti, a leading internet commentator in the country.

"Of course, people in China will wonder if this is politically motivated, and ask whether Google is connected to the US government," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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