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Economy Briefs

- - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

DATA BREACH

Google: Gmail hacking likely from China

LOS ANGELES — Google Inc. revealed Wednesday that unknown hackers likely originating from central China tried to hack into the Gmail accounts of hundreds of users, including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists.

The world's largest Internet company said on its official blog that the hackers, who appeared to originate from Jinan, China, recently tried to crack and monitor email accounts by stealing passwords but Google detected and "disrupted" the campaign.

It notified the victims and relevant governments, Google added in its blog post.

Google shares slipped, finishing 0.7 percent lower at $525.60.

"We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing," Google said on its official blog.

"This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users, including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries [predominantly South Korea], military personnel and journalists."

The U.S. has warned that a cyber-attack — presumably if it is devastating enough — could result in real-world military retaliation, although analysts say it could be difficult to detect the attack's origin with full accuracy.

TECHNOLOGY

Twitter launches photo, video search service

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — The microblogging service Twitter launched a photo and video search service on Wednesday that lets users own the rights to the photos they post, makes search results more personalized and makes the results of more authoritative tweeters prominent.

Chief Executive Dick Costolo unveiled the service at the D: All Things Digital conference. He said the service will be rolled out to all Twitter users in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Costolo said the service will eliminate some friction that users face when trying to post images. It also will allow links to videos to be posted, but users cannot upload videos.

TAKEOVER

Massey, Alpha investors approve $7.1 billion deal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Shareholders overwhelmingly approved coal producer Alpha Natural Resources' $7.1 billion takeover of its struggling rival Massey Energy Co. on Wednesday, the companies said.

Alpha immediately began absorbing Massey, replacing the company's sign on its West Virginia headquarters and filing at least 18 documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission canceling Massey shares after the deal closed.

Massey's safety record has been the focus of renewed scrutiny since 29 miners died in an explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia. The April 5, 2010, tragedy is the deadliest at a U.S. mine since 1970 and remains the subject of ongoing civil and criminal investigations. Massey also has a checkered environmental record and paid a record $20 million fine for alleged pollution violations to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008.

TENNESSEE

Web entertainment theft bill approved

NASHVILLE — State lawmakers in country music's capital have passed a groundbreaking measure that would make it a crime to use a friend's login — even with permission — to listen to songs or watch movies from services such as Netflix or Rhapsody.

The bill, awaiting the governor's signature, was pushed by recording industry officials to try to stop the loss of billions of dollars to illegal music sharing. They hope other states will follow.

The legislation was aimed at hackers and thieves who sell passwords in bulk, but its sponsors acknowledge it could be employed against people who use a friend's or relative's subscription.

While those who share their subscriptions with a spouse or other family members under the same roof almost certainly have nothing to fear, blatant offenders could get in trouble.

GREECE

Moody's downgrades country again

ATHENS — The credit-rating agency Moody's downgraded Greece's bond rating deeper into junk status Wednesday, a further blow to the struggling country, which has been wrapping up negotiations for a vital fifth installment of international bailout loans.

Moody's downgraded Greece by three notches from a B1 rating to Caa1 with a negative outlook, citing increased risk that the financially stricken country will be unable to handle its debt problems without an eventual restructuring — paying creditors less than the full amount or later than originally planned.

The agency also cited "the country's highly uncertain growth prospects" and the missed targets in budget reforms being carried out in return for a $110 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and other European Union countries that use the euro.

From wire dispatches and staff reports