January 2, 2007 2:26 PM PST
Google plugs Gmail data leak flaw
An attacker could create a malicious Web site that would copy all the entries in a Gmail user's address book, a potential treasure trove for spammers, according to a description of the problem on the "Googling Google" blog. The only condition is that the user would have to be logged in to Gmail or another Google service.
The issue came to light after Google watcher Haochi Chen probed a feature in Google Video over the weekend. The feature, called "Pick People to Email," lets users select contacts from their Gmail address book to send them a video. However, the feature also opened up the address book to others, Chen discovered.
Chen alerted Google over the holiday weekend. Heather Adkins, an information security manager at Google, confirmed Tuesday that the company heard about the Google Video issue and fixed it within hours. The search giant later learned that the same problem also impacted other services and resolved those issues within a day, she said.
"To our knowledge, no one exploited the vulnerability and no users were impacted," Adkins said in an e-mailed statement.
Just like traditional software companies, Google appeals to bug hunters to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities and to give it time to fix problems. "Responsible disclosure allows companies like Google to keep users safe by fixing vulnerabilities and resolving security concerns before they are brought to the attention of the bad guys," Adkins said.