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Google Launches New Warning against Potential State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks

As of June 6, 2012, Google has launched a new type of warning positioned at the top of Gmail inboxes, Chrome browser windows, and Google homepages of affected users, indicating the presence of malicious activity on a user’s account which Google believes to be state-sponsored attackers. The exact content of the warning will be: “Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer.” followed by a link labeled “Protect yourself now”.

The warning, Google states, will be issued whenever the company detects malicious activity on a user account which it suspects is state-sponsored in origin, but the company has not released any information regarding how these intrusions are determined to be state sponsored in origin or what agencies or bodies are conducting them. Google’s vice president of security engineering pointed out in a blog post that such a revelation would allow those attempting to commit these privacy-violating acts opportunity to circumvent the implementation of these warnings: “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 suggest the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored.”

Unauthorized access to personal accounts is a highly discussed issue presently, with the recent discovery of the data-mining virus Flame, which has been collecting and transmitting enormous amounts of data from computers in Iran and other parts of the Middle East for the last 4 years. While this virus has not been directly linked to any government body as of yet, researchers believe that the Flame virus was commissioned by the same entity which created Stuxnet, a virus co-sponsored by the United States and Israel which gained fame in 2010 after destroying thousands of Iranian centrifuges crucial to that country’s nuclear development program.