October 10, 2005 12:05 PM PDT

Google fixes Web site security bug

Google has fixed a security flaw on its Web site that opened the door to phishing scams, account hijacks and other attacks, security researchers said Monday.

The flaw, known as a cross-site scripting vulnerability, existed on the Web site for Google's AdWords advertising program and a customer training site, according to security company Finjan Software, which discovered the problem.

Attackers could have exploited the flaw to hijack Google accounts, launch phishing scams or even download malicious code onto users' computers, according to Finjan. Phishing scams are designed to trick people into giving up sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details and Social Security numbers.

Finjan informed Google of the bug late last month, and the problem was fixed within 30 hours, said Limor Elbaz, a vice president at Finjan, which is headquartered in San Jose, Calif. "Google's responsiveness was very good," she said.

Google confirmed that it was alerted "a little while ago" and fixed the flaw. "No user data was compromised, and we applaud Finjan for following industry best practices for vulnerability disclosure," a Google representative said in an e-mailed statement.

The security problem existed because forms on Google's Web site did not validate and filter data entered into certain fields. This allowed an attacker to inject extra content and scripts that would run on the user's computer, according to Finjan. To take advantage of the flaw, an attacker would have to craft a special Web link and trick the user to follow it.

"The dangerous thing in the case of Google is that the link would look like an innocent Google link," Elbaz said.

Cross-site scripting flaws are found regularly. Earlier this year, Finjan spotted a similar bug in Microsoft's Xbox 360 Web site. The company earlier identified holes in Yahoo's Web-based e-mail service.

Finjan, which sells products to protect corporate systems against Web-based attacks, has tools to scan Web sites for vulnerabilities. The company regularly puts popular Web sites to the test. "We do this to encourage vendors to improve their products," Elbaz said.

With the cross-site scripting flaw fixed, Google's Web site is now deemed secure by Finjan. "We found that the rest of the Web site is not vulnerable, at least to the cross-site scripting vulnerabilities," Elbaz said. "We will keep following the site."

Earlier this year, a security flaw in Google's e-mail service, Gmail, was identified and fixed. The flaw could have allowed attackers to hijack Gmail users' in-boxes.

5 comments

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Just a bit concerned.
As a user of Gmail, and Google Adwords I am very concerned, and at the same time relieved that its been fixed. Such flaws can lead to disappointment.
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R.K.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com/</a>
Posted by Roman12 (214 comments )
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Why isn't this marked as a High Impact issue!
Come on News.com this is a super high impact! If it was Microsoft you would have been sure to make it so.
Posted by (43 comments )
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Why hi-impact now?
As anpother reader commented, yesterdays news.

Now if Google had not reponded to the issue and then Finjan had to go public, it would be a high impact issue.

The fact is there are many outstanding security issues lurking out there in various software products and online websites (and this will always be the case).

Many of these issues will not be reported publicly (until solved) but that does not mean they are not being worked on.

Publicly reporting the issues before the developer/service provider has had ample opportunity to repair is irresponsible.

Conversely it is irresponsible for security experts and the media not to report if there indeed has been ample time to repair.

The balancing act (the topping point) in reporting involves deciding on how much time is enough, and more importanly, how large the security issue is and if any workarounds are available.

This is up to intelligent minds to decide, at both software development companies, so-called security expert/consulting companies, the media and the public at-large.

Woody
Posted by Woodmon (29 comments )
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This is last month's news...literally.
What's next, a report on the worm that infested computers in 1998?
Posted by M C (598 comments )
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I thought Google was not talking to cnet? What changed?
Google confirmed that it was alerted "a little while ago" and fixed the flaw. "No user data was compromised, and we applaud Finjan for following industry best practices for vulnerability disclosure," a Google representative said in an e-mailed statement.

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Posted by Woodmon (29 comments )
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