Iran has in recent weeks broken into tens of thousands of accounts on Google's Gmail e-mail service, the search engine company announced Thursday. The motive is not clear, but Google said it had clear evidence that Iran was behind the data theft.
Most of the victims were Iranians, or user Farsi in their accounts, a Google official said, indicating that the data theft involved may be connected to domestic Iranian issues – perhaps the local Iranian elections, set for Friday. The data theft began some three weeks ago, Google said.
The information was acquired not by a break-in to Google's servers, but by means of “phishing,” with unwitting users clicking on a link that installed a virus into their computers that later recorded their Gmail user name and password. The information was delivered to a server, where Iranian officials could log in themselves to users' accounts.
Some 50 million Iranians are set to vote in the hotly contested Presidential elections in Iran Friday. Most pollsters believe that none of the candidates, including current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are likely to win the contest definitively with a 50% share of the vote, and that a second round will be required.