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Friends Of Google Employees Targeted In Latest Cyber Attacks

January 26, 2010

Security experts said a string of recently disclosed cyber attacks saw hackers targeting personal friends of employees at Google, Adobe and other companies, raising privacy concerns and pointing to a highly sophisticated operation, FinancialTimes.com reported.

The hackers spied on individuals and used other sophisticated techniques, making them extremely difficult to stop, according to cybersecurity experts.

Somehow the attackers selected employees at the companies with access to proprietary data, and then found out who their friends were.

The social network accounts of those friends were then compromised in an effort to enhance the probability that their final targets would click on the links they sent.

George Kurtz, chief technology officer at security firm McAfee, said they have been seeing a lot more up-front reconnaissance where hackers are understanding who the players are at the company and how to reach them.

“Someone went to the trouble to backtrack: “ËœLet me look at their friends, who I can target as a secondary person’,” he said.

A previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had been used in the attacks, according to security company McAfee.

Kurtz said the attackers also used one of the most popular instant messaging programs to induce victims to click on a link that installed spy software.

Joe Stewart, a researcher for security firm SecureWorks, said another element of the attack code used a formula only published on Chinese language websites.

He also found that some of the code had been assembled in 2006, suggesting that the campaign had been not only well organized but enduring.

Experts now believe the evidence points to a government-sponsored effort that only large spy agencies or perhaps some of the most advanced big companies could have withstood.

On Monday, China described accusations it was behind the recent cyberattacks as “groundless”.

“This is a loud message for the commercial world, which is: wake up, this isn’t all happiness and goodness and new business,” said Sam Curry, vice-president of security firm RSA.

“Doing business on the Internet is as risky as sending ships through the Panama Canal,” said Curry.

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