LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Google Inc revealed on Wednesday that unknown hackers likely originating from central China tried to hack into the Gmail accounts of hundreds of users, including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists.
The world's largest Internet company said on its official blog that the hackers, who appeared to originate from Jinan, China, recently tried to crack and monitor email accounts by stealing passwords, but Google detected and "disrupted" the campaign.
It notified the victims and relevant governments, Google added in its blog post.
Google shares slipped finished 0.7 percent lower at $525.60.
"We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing," Google said on its official blog.
"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 United States has warned that a cyber attack -- presumably if it is devastating enough -- could result in real-world military retaliation, although analysts say it could be difficult to detect its origin with full accuracy.
The attacks are the latest computer-based invasions directed at western companies and come a year after Internet giant Google and numerous companies were targeted by hackers traced to China.
That previous incident triggered a highly-charged debate over the country's censorship and rigid control of the Internet. Google eventually all but pulled out of China, despite the market's massive growth opportunity.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan; editing by Andre Grenon)
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