The goal seemed to be the gathering not of money but information.
"This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists."
The attacks originated in Jinan, China, said Google. Jinan is the headquarters of a Chinese military command that includes three "group armies" of 190,000 soldiers and is considered by the government a "strategic reserve."
"The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users' emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples' forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.)"
You have to wonder if an additional goal of the phishing attack might be Google's reputation. China and Google have had protracted struggles, with Google accusing China of being behind a hack that inspired its departure from the Chinese mainland. As recently as March, Google announced the Chinese had been attacking Gmail itself.
"There is no technical issue on our side. We have checked extensively," said a Google spokesperson at the time. "This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail."
Government-sponsored hacking has been growing in frequency and importance. Recently, the U.S. military announced it was releasing a paper defining certain cyberattacks as acts of war.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced that the F.B.I. would be investigating the attack, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
China Internet cafe photo by Kai Hendry