China is likely behind the attacks, researchers say.
Chinese hackers have accessed the servers of several foreign ministries in Europe, using one of the oldest tricks in the book. Software company FireEye reported on Tuesday, that the breaches began in 2010 and may still be ongoing. Though FireEye did not call out specific nations, The New York Times identified Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Portugal as victims of the breach.
None of the countries listed responded to the Times's request for comment, which makes sense, because whoever clicked on the malware links fell for a pretty embarrassing phish. In 2011, "The attackers sent their targets emails with a link that claimed to contain naked photos of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of former President Nicolas Sarkozy of France."
Web safety pro tip No. 1: Don't click on sketchy, porny, emailed links from someone you've never met. Especially when using your government-issued work laptop.
More recently, those targeted received less racy, but just-as-painfully obvious links to malware, encoded in documents with titles like "US_military_options_in_Syria." Web safety pro tip #2: If it seems too good to be true, it is. If it seems like the U.S. government is sending you classified foreign policy information, it's not.
FireEye has not linked the hackers directly to the Chinese government, but theTimes reports that China has a history of spying on foreign governments. Additionally, according to one FireEye researcher the most recent, Syria-themed attack specifically targeted G20 leaders during this year's summit. The annual meeting, which brings together finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies, is ripe for snooping, apparently. Russia was also accused of spying on leaders, using even cruder means than China, according to the Associated Press:
Italian newspapers reported early this week allegations that Russia tried to spy on participants of the G-20 summit by giving officials free equipment like USB sticks or mobile phone chargers which, once plugged in, would infect computers with spying software.
And last month, Edward Snowden-leaked documents accusing the U.S. and Canada of spying on leaders during the 2010 G20 meeting emerged. So, basically, if you ever spent more than five minutes thinking about the G20, some government is probably trying to break into your email right now.