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Google tells users in Iran to change their passwords

Internet SSL spoofing attack put Google accounts of people in Iran at risk. Now Google is contacting users who may have been affected, telling them to take security precautions.

Google is telling people in Iran to change their passwords and take other security precautions in the wake of an Internet attack in which the domain was spoofed.

"We learned last week that the compromise of a Dutch company involved with verifying the authenticity of websites could have put the Internet communications of many Iranians at risk, including their Gmail," Eric Grosse, Google's vice president of security engineering, wrote in a blog post last night.

"While Google's internal systems were not compromised, we are directly contacting possibly affected users and providing similar information below because our top priority is to protect the privacy and security of our users," he wrote.

Specifically, Google recommends that users in Iran change their passwords; verify their account recovery options; check the Web sites and applications that are allowed to access their Google account; check Gmail settings for suspicious forwarding addresses or delegated accounts; and pay attention to warnings that appear in the Web browser and don't click past them.

An Iranian hacker has taken credit for breaking into a Dutch certificate authority named DigiNotar and fraudulently creating more than 500 Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates used to authenticate Web sites, including one that was used in the wild to trick people into thinking they were visiting a legitimate Google site when they weren't.

Google confirmed last week that users in Iran were primarily affected by the attack. Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Windows and Adobe now blacklist DigiNotar certificates.

Mozilla also is asking certificate authorities to take certain actions designed to prevent such problems from happening.

Digital certificates are supposed to serve as proof that a Web site is the site it claims to be when a Web surfer uses an "https" connection. But the 600 or so companies that provide the certificates have differing levels of security and no standard process for automatically revoking fraudulent certificates.