Google announced on Tuesday it will begin displaying a warning to users who the internet giant believe are under state-sponsored malware attack.
“We are constantly on the lookout for malicious activity on our systems, in particular attempts by third parties to log into users’ accounts unauthorized. When we have specific intelligence – either directly from users or from our own monitoring efforts – we show clear warning signs and put in place extra roadblocks to thwart these bad actors,” Eric Grosse, VP of Security Engineering, said in a statement posted on Google’s security blog.
Google has not revealed what criteria or technology will be used to detect the attacks.
The move comes following high-profile attacks on Google. More than two years ago western corporations claimed they were attacked by Chinese hackers. In 2001, the U.S. government said senior officials with Gmail accounts were targeted. In response, Google moved servers from mainland China to Hong Kong.
Russian activists opposed to the re-installment of the Putin regime also claim their Google accounts were targeted. Russia’s FSB, heir to the old Soviet KGB, have repeatedly called for a crackdown on the internet and other “new technologies” it believes are being used by western intelligence agencies to “create and maintain constant tension in societies.”
Earlier this year, a “self-professed” Iranian hacker group claimed they had compromised the accounts of thousands of NASA researchers. The attack came after the U.S. and Israel attacked Iranian computer networks with the Stuxnet virus. It was reported last week that the Obama administration authorized an ambitious cyber attack on Iran as part of its ongoing effort to destabilize the country and derail its fledgling nuclear program.
It is unclear if Google will also protect its networks against attacks waged by the Pentagon. DARPA, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has launched its Plan X, an effort to recruit “the private sector, universities and even computer-game companies as part of an ambitious effort to develop technologies to improve its cyberwarfare capabilities, launch effective attacks and withstand the likely retaliation,” according to the Washington Post.
Finally, it should be noted that Google is a prime target for a number of reasons, most notably for the role it plays as a key intelligence asset to both the CIA and the NSA. It has supplied the core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online CIA system and has shared a close relationship with the CIA, NSA, and government national security officials.
“Google’s connection with the CIA and its venture capital firm extends to sharing at least one key member of personnel. In 2004, the Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel, Rob Painter, moved from his old job directly serving the CIA to become ‘Senior Federal Manager’ at Google.,” writes Eric Sommer.
In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the CIA, also had a hand in creating the wildly popular social network Facebook. “The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel,” writes Matt Greenop.
Considering the Obama administration’s open effort to sabotage Iran – and more than likely other official enemies, including Syria, Russia and China – retaliatory cyber attacks should be expected.
Google is now warning hapless users that they may become victims – or collateral damage – of these retaliatory attacks.