Online censorship watchdog Greatfire has reported that Microsoft’s Outlook email service was hacked in China last week. Greatfire reported that the service felt prey to a Man-in-the-middle cyber attack. This comes just days after Gmail suffered a similar service blockade for a couple of days in China which was later restored.
The attack lasted for almost a day but is in control, at least for now. Google’s Gmail was blocked a few weeks ago in China due to their strict censorship laws. The only way to use Gmail (nowadays) in China is to go through a VPN.
Greatfire blamed Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) for this attack, suspecting that the CAC knew about it and still did not take any preventive measures.
If our accusation is correct, this new attack signals that the Chinese authorities are intent on further cracking down on communication methods that they cannot readily monitor
A MITM attack invades your online activities and monitors them to grab your browsing and hence any personal information you might have left or used online. It can also redirect you to a certain page which may not feel fishy at the time but serves the hackers’ purpose of invading your privacy.
The IMAP and SMTP services of Outlook were reportedly under attack while the online web interface seemed to work fine.
In a MITM attack, there occurs a trivial warning window which many of us don’t pay attention to. It asks for our consent to move on and we generally do not look at the whole agreement and hit the continue button and hence fall prey to it. Once we’ve clicked on the continue button, who knows what the cyberattackers might end up getting. The attack on Monday had a pop-up message with a warning.
Several attacks on foreign services like Outlook and Gmail have left users in China with no options but to use the local services that the Communist Party of China is providing. Many internet activists have argued that this is done intentionally so as to allow the Party to monitor any type of resistance that may develop against them.