And that makes the Gmail attack a bit more serious, says Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group.
"Any Gmail hack is a bad thing for Google, but having it hit government officials is worse, since these are the people who can focus a lot of regulatory attention on them," added Olds. "Although this sounds, so far at least, like the hacking was due to users getting sucked into phishing attempts, this won't necessarily get Google off the hook."
And since the attack came in the form of a phishing scheme that tried to con users into handing over their passwords, Shimmin said Google shouldn't take a big beating over this.
"The onus lies with the individual on this one," said Shimmin. "If you don't conduct safety practices on your own and you act like an idiot and click on a link you shouldn't click on, that's not Google's fault. Google shouldn't take a beating for this, because people should have been smart enough not to fall for a phishing attack."
However, he also noted that just because Google shouldn't take the blame, that doesn't mean it won't. The allegation that it involves China and espionage makes it a high-profile attack, with Google is right in the middle of it.
"It's a black eye for Google as it is with any vendor that's caught with something this high profile," said Shimmin. "It could have been some kid in the new Jersey who launched a phishing attack. What's giving Google the biggest hit with this is that it's a strange story and it's connected with espionage and China."
As for Olds, he says it's not yet clear how this will play out for Google.
"It's hard to say if this specific incident will have a long-term effect on Google or cloud applications in general," he added. "To me, it's a drip effect where these hacks keep coming, one after the other, and could add up to a general perception that [the cloud] is just not a safe and secure way to transmit and store anything important."
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