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The chilling Google warning greeting journos in Burma

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Several Burmese journalists and foreign correspondents have been warned by Google that their Gmail accounts may have been compromised by “state-sponsored attackers”.

The writers, when logging into the webmail service, were confronted with a warning message stating “we believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer”, Hacker News reports.

Google introduced this form of alert in June to warn users if it suspected government-backed miscreants had tried to access their inboxes without authorisation.

"If you see this warning it does not necessarily mean that your account has been hijacked," Google explained at the time. "It just means that we believe you may be a target, of phishing or malware for example, and that you should take immediate steps to secure your account" - such as making use of Google's two-factor authentication system.

The advertising giant won't say what exactly triggers the state-sponsored hijacking alert, as opposed to attempts made by common-or-garden crooks, lest it helps "bad actors". However the search biz hinted that reports by victims and its own monitoring activities play a role. Google also refrains from revealing which nation may be behind an attack.

Aye Aye Win, a correspondent in Myanmar, Burma, for the Associated Press, and Myat Thura, a Myanmar correspondent for Japan's Kyodo News Agency, have both been confronted with warnings from Google about attempted compromises. Employees of Eleven Media, one of Burma’s leading news organisations, and local authors were also hit with alerts over the last few days, The New York Times reports.

Eleven Media’s website and Facebook page were shut down by hackers several times in recent weeks, the paper adds.

Internet traffic in and out of Burma has been tightly censored for many years. At one point the country even considering severing all links with the wider web, but in the interests of commerce the secretive nation scrapped that plan. In the two years since, President Thein Sein gained office and restrictions have been lifted - but true democracy may take longer to be established.

Reporters in Burma speculated that attempts by secret policemen or such types to hack into their Gmail accounts may be linked to articles about armed clashes between Kachin rebels and government forces in northern Myanmar; the fighting has put the country's rulers on edge and their officials have denied reports that the government attacked rebels using aircraft - until Eleven Media filed pictures of air-to-surface assaults. ®

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