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In just three months, from July to September 2019, Google sent out 12,000 warnings to people who were suspected of being targeted by a government-backed hacking attempt. Google’s Threat Analysis Group revealed in a blog post that during the three months from July to September this year, users across 149 countries were warned that they were targeted by government-backed attackers. The majority of the users were in America and 90% were targeted with phishing emails that were trying to steal the login details for Google accounts of users.
Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) serves to counter targeted and government-backed hacking against Google and its users. According to Google, the data was consistent with the number of warnings sent in the period of 2018 and 2017. This meant that the nation-state hackers didn’t step up their level of attacks.
The Threat Analysis Group has been tracking numerous government-sponsored hackers, most prominently a group called Sandworm. The US government considers Sandworm a Russian-backed crew that was responsible for the catastrophic NotPetya ransomware attacks of 2017. In November 2018, Sandworm was targeting Android users.
High-risk users like journalists, human rights activists, and political campaigns are advised by Google to use their Advanced Protection Program (APP). It bundles secret keys onto USB and Bluetooth devices that the user connects to their device after entering the password for their Google account. The hacker has to have access to that physical key to get access to that account even if they have the login password. An average user can also use that same kind of protection who is particularly concerned about their privacy and security.