BEIJING, China - Chinese state media hit out at Google Monday, warning it against becoming a political tool after the Internet giant said it had been hit by a cyberspying campaign that originated in China.
"Google should not become too involved in an international political struggle nor act as a tool in a political game," the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said in an editorial in its overseas version.
"Once the international wind changes direction, it may sacrificed for politics, and could be abandoned by the market," it said, without elaborating.
Google said last week it had been hit by a cyberspying campaign targeting Gmail accounts of senior US officials, journalists and activists, which appeared to have come from Jinan, capital of the eastern province of Shandong.
The company did not specifically point the finger at Chinese authorities, but China's foreign ministry said Thursday it was "unacceptable" to blame Beijing, raising the prospect of fresh tensions with the United States.
Google security team engineering director Eric Grosse said in a blog post that the US-based Internet giant had "uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing."
Those affected included senior US government officials, Chinese political activists, military personnel, journalists and officials in several Asian countries, mainly South Korea, he said.
The "phishing" ruse used to trick Gmail users into revealing account names and passwords reportedly involved sending booby-trapped messages that appeared to come from legitimate associates, friends or organisations.
This is the second time that Google has reported a China-based cyberattack. Early last year, a similar incident prompted the company to stop bowing to online censors and reduce its presence in China.
At that time, Beijing virulently denied any state involvement in the cyberattacks that Google said targeted email accounts of Chinese human rights activists, saying such claims were "groundless".
Since then, Google has seen its share of the lucrative Chinese search market slide to the profit of local rival Baidu.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said Google's latest allegations were "very serious." But the White House said it was not aware that any official email accounts had been compromised.
The People's Daily accused Google of having "strongly hinted the cyberattack was the work of the Chinese government," adding the firm had still not provided any evidence.
"Google's accusations are made up, have ulterior motives and vicious intentions."