Gmail of journalists in Myanmar said to be hacked

Google warns reporters in the Southeast Asian country that "state-sponsored attackers" possibly spied on their e-mails. The Myanmar government denies the allegation.

A handful of journalists who cover Myanmar received warnings from Google over the past week. The Web giant told them that their Gmail accounts might have been hacked by "state actors" or "state-sponsored attackers" and that they should change their passwords and tighten their security settings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google said that it has systems in place to detect possible state-sponsored malware or hacking but would not give the Wall Street Journal further information on how these systems work.

The Myanmar government has now responded to these allegations and denies any involvement in e-mail hacking. "I doubt the authenticity" of the alerts, Ye Htut -- spokesperson for president Thein Sein told the Wall Street Journal. "There is no policy of the government to attack [a] media website."

A heavy-handed military regime has ruled over the Southeast Asian country for decades. And, over the years, government spying on journalists was supposedly par for the course. Myanmar has also been regularly listed as one of the world's " Enemies of the Internet " with the government periodically blocking access to the Web, Gmail, and other e-mail services.

However, after Thein Sein was elected president in 2011, Myanmar began to open up to the outside world and allow in more journalists and technology. According to the Wall Street Journal, much of the country's media controls and censorship has lifted.

Still, many reporters are wary of the reforms and worry that the country could easily revert back to its days of spying and censorship. Journalists from the publications Eleven Media, Voice Weekly, and others reported getting the alert from Google.

"We don't know why they are checking us, or how far they are checking us, or who these state-sponsored groups are," editor-in-chief of Eleven Media Zaw Ye Naung told the Wall Street Journal. "This is not a good situation amidst the reform process."

CNET contacted Google for more information. We'll update the story when we hear back.

 

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