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Google to alert users of state-sponsored cyber attacks

Google has launched an alert system that notifies users of potential state-sponsored attacks on their accounts.

The new installation will bring up a red banner (below) at the top of the browser if the search engine has acquired "specific intelligence" that indicates a user's account is at risk. The alert includes a link where actions to improve security are suggested - including the creation of more complex passwords and ensuring all computer systems are updated.

The new feature was announced in a company blog post from VP of security engineering, Eric Grosse, who said, "If you see this warning it does not necessarily mean that your account has been hijacked. It just means that we believe you may be a target, of phishing or malware for example, and that you should take immediate steps to secure your account".

Deflecting any probes into how Google determines if attacks are state-sponsored, he added, "We can't go into the details without giving away information that would be helpful to these bad actors, but our detailed analysis - as well as victim reports - strongly suggest the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored".

The move comes as reports of government hacking become increasingly prevalent, particularly in association with Middle Eastern authorities after 18 months of social unrest through the region. Security experts in the West consistently identify China as a major cyber-threat too.

But it remains to be seen whether Google's initiative will alert users of state-intrusions closer to home - as the White House's internet surveillance continues to grow under the Obama administration. The company has openly stated it responds to governments' data requests, while long-standing rumours report ties between the firm and agencies including the CIA and NSA.

(ed : the alert is likely to kick in only if you are logged in to your account and should be browser-agnostic).