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China Denies Accessing High Profile Gmail Accounts

(FILES) This January 11, 2011 screen imageshows the Google logo in Washington, DC. Google unveiled an online payment platform for publishers on February 16, 2011, a day after Apple launched a subscription service of its own for newspapers, magazines, music and video.

China fired back today after Google alleged it had disrupted a Chinese campaign to attain the passwords of hundreds of Gmail users including senior U.S. government officials and Chinese activists.

The Washington Post reports a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the accusations were "unacceptable" and were "a fabrication out of thin air."

The Post adds:

A Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry official said Thursday that "any blame against China in this [latest incident] is groundless and with an ulterior motive." The official, Hong Lei, said in an e-mailed statement that the "Chinese government is firmly opposed to any cyber criminal activity, including hacking . . . [and] is ready to cooperate with the international community to combat against it."

The White House's National Security Council said it is looking into Google's announcement and working with the FBI to investigate.

As we reported yesterday, Google said an attack it thought was based out Jinan, China was using so-called phishing methods to coerce users into giving out their Gmail passwords. The intent, said Google, was to monitor the contents of users' e-mail. Those hacked, said Google, included, "senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists."

The dispute isn't the first one Google and China have had. Just this March, Google complained that China was interfering with Gmail in a way that made it look unreliable in the country. At the time, China responded with similar words. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said the accusations were "unacceptable."

Update at 1:22 p.m. ET. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Google's allegations "very serious." The AP reports Clinton said the FBI was investigating:

Clinton said attacks such as the one alleged by Google were a prime reason the State Department has for the first time created a cyber-security coordinator. "We know this is going to be a continuing problem and therefore we want to be as prepared as possible to deal with these matters when they do come to our attention," she said.

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