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Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems*, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists.
The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.)
Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities.
It’s important to stress that our internal systems have not been affected—these account hijackings were not the result of a security problem with Gmail itself. But we believe that being open about these security issues helps users better protect their information online.
The U.S. government is investigating reports from Google that hackers attempted to break into the Gmail accounts of senior government officials but at this point doesn't believe any accounts were actually breached.
"Speaking on behalf of the U.S. government, we're looking into these reports and seeking to gather the facts," Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokesperson for the National Security Agency, told CNET today. "We have no reason to believe that any official U.S. government e-mail accounts were accessed."
The FBI is taking the lead on the investigation, according to Hayden, "as part of an interagency mechanism that comes together to focus on these types of incidents when they occur."