Google alerts users to suspected state-sponsored attacks

Google security warning The warning message suggests government-backed attackers are trying to compromise the user's Google account or computer

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Google has introduced an alert system that warns users it believes may be the subject of state-sponsored attacks.

The US firm says it will bring up a banner highlighting the danger when users are logged into their Google Account.

An attached link will suggest actions to protect their data from being hijacked such as the use of tougher passwords and suggested system updates.

The search company would not reveal exactly what would trigger the alerts.

It only said that it would be based on the belief that a user might have become the target of malware or phishing - requests for some of their personal details from a party pretending to be a trustworthy source.

"You might ask how we know this activity is state-sponsored," wrote Eric Grosse, Google's vice-president of security engineering on its blog.

"We can't go into the details without giving away information that would be helpful to these bad actors, but our detailed analysis - as well as victim reports - strongly suggests the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored."

A recent report by Reporters Without Borders flagged up several instances of what it said were state-backed attacks over the previous year.

It said one case involved users in Belarus who had tried to log into a local social network but were redirected by their internet service provider to sites containing malware.

It added that attempts to "phish" for social network usernames and passwords had been reported in Syria and Iran.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It would be nice if the alert "Named and Shamed" the suspects, and provided an email address where complaints could be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    To be honest, Google are telling us what we already know. We know governments, agencies etc. monitor the internet.

    Whether it is a genuine protective measure for the public or conversely a state backed initiative, when that little message pops up, it will create a lot of worry and panic amongst users who aren't too familiar with computers and IT. It makes the internet look scary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I work in IT and even on my work PC with expensive virus checkers, a very nasty trojan managed to find it's way through, so these features are of value to Joe Public. My only question is - why add the state sponsored bit...? one for the conspiracy theorists here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I'm concerned that threats will be labelled as: "State sponsored". Without naming the state, this simply creates a notional Bogey man in the mind's of its users. If there are frequent occurrences of false positives a naturally false impression will arise. Current methods used by AV software are more than sufficient; by simply naming the type of threat, stating it was dealt with: reassuring user

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Amazing new development. Thank you, Google, for at least making it possible for users to have a clue about what is happening. I would not be unnecessarily relaxed about security in the absence of alerts, however. My assumption is and has always been that my computer terminal, or smartphone, is a public space. You never know who might be present.


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