Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Phishing attack nets Gmail accounts of US military and government officials

Hackers hit high value targets with social engineering

Article comments

Google revealed today that "hundreds" of Gmail accounts were compromised in a nasty spear phishing attack that targeted high profile US military and government officials, among others.

The news came on a day when Northrop Grumman joined Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications on the list of defence contractors who appear to have been hacked in an event unrelated to the Gmail invasion. Meanwhile, MacRumors reported that a new variant of the Mac Defender Trojan hit the streets within 8 hours of Apple's security update.

And so the game continues.

Google hack

The Official Google Blog says, "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 US government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists."

This isn't Google's first problem in China, and Google's internal systems weren't affected, the company said. But it advised Gmail users to check their forwarding and access settings, be on alert for "suspicious activity" warnings in Gmail, and strengthen their security practices through two step verification and strong passwords.

Along with "the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems," the post's author, Eric Grosse of the Google Security Team, credited user reports and Mila Parkour's Contagio Malware Dump blog for uncovering the cyberattack.

Back in February, Parkour provided all the details of the breach, including what a spoofed mail looks like and what to do about it. Her examples showed invaded Gmail accounts of people involved in military, political, and diplomatic activities.

How does military and diplomatic mail end up in a Gmail account instead of a .gov or .mil address? "Some people have a habit of forwarding messages from enterprise accounts to their personal mail for saving or easy reading at home," Parkour notes. The cybersleuth took advantage of weaker security protections and home's "relaxed atmosphere, which helps to catch the victim off guard."

Customised fake mail

Parkour described the fake emails as "customised and individualised for each target", sent from the spoofed address of an individual or agency known to the targeted user.

A "view download" link instead led to a fake Gmail login page, Parkour said. Once the invaders harvested each user's credentials, they were able to redirect mail to another account, read incoming and outgoing mail and gather info. Details like a spouse's name or references to meetings were used to craft additional messages that were "plausible enough to generate responses or conversations from victims."



Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *