Published on Saturday, 09 February 2013 17:18
Warning mail from Google
A number of Myanmar journalists have recently received warnings from Google that their email accounts may have been targets of “state-sponsored attacks” amid a growing fear that the worse is yet to come.
The journalists were the first to receive the warning which said, “We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer”, after they login to their Gmail accounts.
Google sent notifications to the news editors of Eleven Media Group, including its chief editor Wai Phyo, about the state-sponsored attacks on their email accounts on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
The Voice Weekly Journal’s editor Aung Soe, Aye Aye Win, a Myanmar correspondent for the Associated Press, and Myat Thura, a Myanmar correspondent for the Kyodo News Agency have also received warnings from Google about these attempted attacks.
“I received the warning on February 6 (Wednesday). As (the warning) said state-sponsored attackers, I got worried and changed my password immediately. I think they tried to get into our Gmail (accounts) as we have many contacts. Google knows which organization have been trying to hack our accounts so they sent the warnings to us. I don’t know their intentions (for these hacking attempts) but the Gmail accounts they tried to get in (belong to) journalists”, said Aye Aye Win.
“I feel that it is not good to receive the warning. I feel insecure. I have expected them to do this at some time, or another….It is another issue if I was the only one to receive the warning. But now, the journalists are intentionally targeted (with the attacks),” said Myat Thura.
“They hacked The Voice (Journal). They hacked Eleven (Media Group). Gmail sent (us) warnings..This has become an alarming act because I found that it was not just an attempt to read my emails. (The cyber-attacks) were all made with a destructive intention,” he added.
Swedish journalist Bertil Linter, an expert on Myanmar affairs, wrote via email that there have also been attempts to hack his Gmail account and he has sent a notification to the Google office in San Francisco.
Beside the journalists, a few IT experts and other Gmail users have also received the warnings from Google that their accounts may be targeted by hackers.
The state-sponsor attackers have also tried to hack the Gmail account of an IT expert whose web developing company was in charge of The Voice Weekly Journal website.
Zaw Htut, managing director of Myanmar’s Net, who has been trying to recover the Voice Weekly’s hacked Facebook page said he received the warning from Google on Tuesday on his business Gmail account.
“I have never received a warning that says “state-sponsored attackers” before. What is more astonishing is that it came to the account which is used for business. I didn’t receive any warnings for my personal Gmail account. Even though I’m using the same computer, (the warnings) only came for the business account,” said Zaw Htut.
Although Google has sent the warnings to Gmail users, it still has not issued any announcements about which countries are behind the state-sponsored attacks.
In an article published in October, The New York Times reported that Google has sent warnings to some users of its Gmail service in June. At that time, many American journalists, foreign policy experts, and political activists have received the warnings from Google.
Mike Wiacek, a manager on Google’s information security team, said in an interview with the New York Times that after Google alerted its users about the state-sponsored attacks, it had gathered new intelligence about attack methods and the groups deploying them.
Websites and facebook accounts of local media have been attacked by various hackers groups during this month.
The webpage, http://www.news-eleven.com, of Eleven Media Group had been hacked by Red Army (a combination of six different hacker groups namely Blink Hacker Group, Myanmar Hack3rs Unite4m, Myanmar Cyber Army, Black Hack Area, Myanmar Cyber Defence Army, and Cyber Vampire Team) in January 15 and 16. The webpage will be unavailable for a period of time, and EMG readers are not able to watch the website for about four hours. Myanmar Express reported a news that the hackers are threatened to attack EMG website with DDoS before the attack. Myanmar Express has been assumed to operate by some army officers and some government departments in public. It has been described as a propaganda tool for attacking the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and media (especially Eleven Media Group and The Voice Weekly).
The Voice Weekly Journal's Facebook page was also hacked by two groups, “MMCF” and “Anonymous Myanmar” in February 4. The hackers controlled The Voice Weekly’s Facebook account and posted the news of Myanmar Express at the morning of next day. The page has been deactivated at the noon of the same day.
The hackers launched a cyber-attack on the Facebook page of Eleven Media Group at the evening of February 6, but were prevented from taking control of the administration accounts in a few minutes by Eleven Media Group IT Team.
Eleven Media Group sent a formal complaint to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services via the Press Council over cyber attacks on legally established media.
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