International journalists in China
said their Google e-mail accounts have been hacked in attacks similar to the
ones against human rights activists that the search giant cited as a reason for
considering pulling out of the country.
In announcing a possible exit from
China last week, Google did not specify how the accounts with its Gmail e-mail
service were hacked into or by whom. Information since then has trickled out.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of
China sent an e-mail Monday to its members warning that reporters in at least
two news bureaus in Beijing said their Gmail accounts had been broken into,
with their e-mails surreptitiously forwarded to unfamiliar accounts.
Although the warning did not name
the organizations, one of the accounts belonged to an Associated Press
John Daniszewski, senior managing
editor for international news at the news cooperative in New York, deplored the
breach and said the AP will be investigating to determine if any vital
information was compromised.
The foreign correspondents’ club
asked its members to be vigilant in protecting their e-mail accounts and
computers from attack.
“We remind all members that
journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last
two years,” the club’s message read. “Please be very careful what you
click on, and run virus checks regularly.”
Google said only two e-mail
accounts were infiltrated in the attacks, with basic information such as
subject lines and the dates that the individual accounts were created accessed.
In its investigation, Google said it found that dozens of accounts of human
rights advocates in China, the U.S. and Europe were routinely accessed by third
parties, not due to a security breach at Google, but through viruses and spy
software secretly placed on the users’ computers.