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Google to offer cyberwar defence advice to Gmail users

'State-sponsored attackers are targeting your account'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google is to warn Gmail customers if it thinks they’re being targeted by “suspected state-sponsored attacks”.

The warning, “We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your computer”, is intended to spur users to take immediate measures to secure their account, Eric Grosse, Google’s security engineering veep, writes on the Google security blog.

Such steps include creating a strong password for the account (that is, the kind of password that’s only usable if you write it down), enable two-step account verification, and keep all software up-to-date.

El Reg anticipates three possible user responses to the warning:

  • The kind of indifference or hostility that’s made it so hard for the world to remedy DNS Changer;
  • Outright instant terror;
  • a small subset of intelligent and sensible users who react calmly and quickly.

Google declined to detail the characteristics of attacks that would lead it to identify activity as state-sponsored, with Grosse writing that “we can’t go into the details without giving away information that would be helpful [to the] bad actors”.

As noted in Threatpost, Google accounts are a favourite target for government attacks (as well, we should add, as attacks by non-state actors, Nigerian scammers, hacktivists, and advertisers trying to sell stuff).

The Aurora attacks, emanating from China in 2010, are the best-known examples of alleged state-sponsored “spear-phishing”. ®

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