The already strained relationship between Google and the Chinese government became even testier this week, as the Internet giant has laid the blame for a recent cyber attack on Chinese hackers.
In a recent blog post, Google alleged that Chinese hackers from Jinan were responsible for accessing the Gmail accounts of hundreds U.S. government officials and Chinese political activists, as well as military personnel, officials and journalists from several other Asian countries.
According to Google, the hackers apparently had intended to monitor the victims' email activity by changing their forwarding settings to send messages to different accounts – a feature that Gmail can do automatically.
"Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities," the company stated.
This isn't the first time Google has squared the responsibility for a data security attack on China. Early last year, the company the blamed China for a similar incident and subsequently threatened to unplug its service to the country.
In response to the latest incident, Xinhau, China's government-owned press agency, called Google's claims "groundless," suggesting that Google provided no evidence that China was involved in the attack.
"Again, Google complained about China undermining its cyberspace service. Just as its previous accusations, the world's largest Internet search engine provided no solid proof to support its statement," Xinhau stated.
One of the immediate concerns of the breach was that the hackers had used stolen passwords to break into U.S. government email accounts. However, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, no official government account was hacked, Forbes reports.
The White House does allow employees to access their personal email accounts, but all official business is conducted through government email accounts, Carney said.