Google users could find themselves caught up in the cyberspace front of Middle East conflicts, says Google. And many of the attacks could be state sponsored. The latest news of cyber attacks comes three months after Google began warning its users that they might be targeted by state-sponsored hackers. Google now says that the attacks are in the thousands, more intensive than it expected.
For the IT community at midsize firms the Google warnings do not apply only to Google users. They are a reminder that cyber warfare is not science fiction anymore. It has instead become a fact of life. It is centered around Mideast conflicts - but the Internet is not constrained by geographical boundaries. Thus attacks can strike anywhere. And they can come from all sides in the region's multiple conflicts.
As Casey Newton reports at CNET, Google started warning Gmail service users three months ago that they might be targets of cyber-attacks. Now, according to the New York Times,Google says that the attacks are intensifying. The company "has picked up thousands more instances of cyberattacks than it anticipated."
Many are believed to be state sponsored, and most of them apparently originate in the Middle East. In response, Google has started displaying a message to users whose accounts may have been attacked: "Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer."
The CNET piece does not expand on details of which Mideast states are believed to be responsible for these cyber attacks. Iran, also under cyber attack, is one obvious suspect. Another might be the embattled regime in Syria, which has already hacked into the accounts of opponents in the Syrian civil war.
According to CNET, Google users who receive the warning message should consider changing their passwords and enabling two-factor authentication for their Google accounts.
A Context of Conflict
In the larger picture of IT security for midsize firms, however, this is not just about Google. Cyber warfare in the Mideast has broken out on multiple fronts in the past couple of years. The Stuxnet worm, which reportedly wrecked thousands of Iranian nuclear-program centrifuges, is widely believed to have been state-sponsored, launched by Western covert agencies. The Flame virus, which has infected thousands of computers in the Mideast and elsewhere, is believed to have come from the same "shop" as Stuxnet. Most recently, the Gauss financial malware appears to have similar origins.
In short, cyber missiles are being launched in both directions. And they can be extremely sophisticated, designed by