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Email Cyber Attack Goes Beyond Gmail

June 4, 2011

Internet security firm Trend Micro said on Friday that cyber attackers have been trying to infiltrate popular email services.

The firms said that Microsoft’s Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and Google’s Gmail have been among the services pinpointed for cyber attackers.

“There has been a variety of recent attacks on popular Webmail platforms,” Trend Micro senior threat researcher Nart Villeneuve said in an online post.

“In addition to Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have also been targeted. While the attacks appear to have been separately conducted, these have some significant similarities,” Villeneuve said.

Google said Wednesday that a cyber spying campaign originating from China had targeted Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials, military personnel, journalists, Chinese political activists, and officials in several Asian countries.

“We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing,” Google security team engineering director Eric Grosse said in a blog post.

“The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords,” he said.

Grosse said the campaign, which U.S. federal agents have investigated, appeared to originate in Jinan, capital of the eastern Chinese providence of Shandong and targeted the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users of Google’s Gmail service.

According to Trend Micro, attacks on Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail also appeared aimed at being able to secretly read messages and possibly find ways into other people’s accounts.

“Once the attackers know what software are installed on a target’s computer, including antivirus products, they can craft a precise attack targeting any vulnerable software,” Villeneuve said in an online post. “Such an attack will then have a high probability of success.”

Trend Micro spokesman Michael Sweeny said in an email to msnbc.com that Microsoft “already patched last week the vulnerability that we identified.”

“We recently alerted Yahoo of an attempt to exploit Yahoo Mail by stealing users’ cookies in order to gain access to their email accounts. While this attempt appeared to fail, it does signify that attackers are attempting to attack Yahoo Mail users as well,” Villeneuve said.

The company recommends users check Microsoft’s online privacy and safety site, as well as Windows Live page.

They added, “make sure you use the latest products, such as anti-spam and anti-phishing capabilities in e-mail services, phishing filters in Web browsers and other services to help warn and protect you from online scams.”

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