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Google now warning users of 'state-sponsored' web attacks

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Google has said it will begin warning a subset of its users who it believes are being targeted by state-sponsored malware, phishing, or other attacks.

Google State-Sponsored Attack Warning
Google State-Sponsored Attack Warning

Are government-backed hackers trying to compromise your Gmail account? If so, Google wants to warn you. In an online security blog post, the company has said it will start issuing warnings for users it believes are being targeted by "state-sponsored attacks" on Chrome or Google's web services. According to Google, the message "Warning: we believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer. Protect yourself now" will appear for a subset of users who it believes "may be a target" for malware, phishing, or other attacks. We're not sure exactly where the "protect yourself now" link leads, but the post recommends users set stronger passwords and update software and plugins.

Overall, the company is maddeningly vague about what's going on. Vice President of Security Engineering Eric Grosse says Google "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." That's likely to refer to a trojan like Flame or the almost certainly US- and Israel-created Stuxnet, but it still doesn't explain how Google decides when to deploy the warning. It's also interesting to see this right after Google starting warning users in China when their searches might be censored. We're not sure whether this is a solid warning or more of a political statement, but we'll certainly be watching for it in the coming weeks.