03-Jun-2011 09:41

Recent Gmail hack investigated…

The very recent fresh Gmail hacking episode shows that ‘hackers’ have come a long way since the early days of amateurish email Nigerian banking scams.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that U.S. officials were opening an investigation into Google’s claim that Chinese hackers were responsible.

According to The Associated Press Clinton told reporters the US government viewed the allegations as “very serious”.

To the average - fairly savvy - computer user it may seem reasonable to question how anyone with a little intelligence, let alone high-ranking U.S. officials, could unwittingly hand over their email passwords to a hacker.
However, cyber security experts say it is really not surprising at all.

Bruce Schneier, a leading cyber security expert and technologist, said, “Really smart people fall for this all the time”.

“If you get an email from an address or name you recognise saying, ‘Here’s this really cool thing, click on this link to see it,’ much of the time you’re going to click.”

The Gmail hacking affected hundreds of influential users, Google revealed in a blog post on Wednesday, including “senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists.”

Google said the scam appeared to originate from Jinan, China, the site of the country’s version of the National Security Agency as well as a top military vocational academy whose computers were linked to a serious attack last year on the computer systems of major American companies, including Google.

But a Chinese foreign ministry official on Thursday denied any government involvement and called Google’s claim a “total fabrication,” according to the Agence France-Presse.

Whoever was behind it clearly knew what they were doing, although the phishing attack was not highly sophisticated compared with cyber attacks that target the computer systems of large corporations or organizations.

But perpetrators of these types of email scams have refined their methods: Experts say they’re generally spell-checked and grammatically written, unlike earlier generations of phishing attacks.

Also unlike the classic Nigerian banking email blasts sent to millions with the hope that a tiny percentage will give up their bank account information, the perpetrators had a very specific target list and were seeking political intelligence, not profits.

(ref: Politico)

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