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Google detects tens of thousands of 'politically motivated' phishing attacks ahead of Iranian elections

According to Google the attacks have targeted tens of thousands of users

The search engine giant Google has discovered and disrupted attempts to hack tens of thousands of Gmail accounts in Iran ahead of the country's forthcoming elections.

Writing in a blog post yesterday the Vice President of Security Engineering Eric Grosse said Google had "detected and disrupted" thousands of these attacks in the past three weeks.

Phishing attacks are emails which appear official but instead lead users to websites where they are encouraged to reveal data including usernames, passwords, and credit card details.

According to Google the attacks have targeted tens of thousands of users in total in what the company describes as most likely a "politically-motivated" defensive tactic.

"These campaigns, which originate from within Iran, represent a significant jump in the overall volume of phishing activity in the region," Grosse wrote on the Google security blog.

"The timing and targeting of the campaigns suggest that the attacks are politically motivated in connection with the Iranian presidential election on Friday," he added.

Mr Grosse goes on to explain that the targeted users receive an email containing a link to a web page that claims to provide a way to perform Google account maintenance.

If the user follows the link they are presented with a fake Google sign-in page that will steal their username and password.

The blog goes on to warn users that: "Especially if you are in Iran, we encourage you to take extra steps to protect your account."

"Watching out for phishing, using a modern browser like Chrome and enabling 2-step verification can make you significantly more secure against these and many other types of attacks."

Google also explains that the phishing attacks appear to be from the same group that targeted users in 2011.

Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric, has become the frontrunner in the elections to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday.