March 2, 2006 4:30 PM PST

Google fixes 'minor' Gmail flaw

Google has fixed a flaw in its Gmail Web based e-mail service after the problem was disclosed by a blogger, the company said Thursday.

The flaw could allow JavaScript code to run when viewing a message in Gmail, potentially allowing malicious code to be used by an attacker to compromise a Gmail account, according to a blogger who calls himself "Anthony."

The blogger, who claims to be a 14-year-old student, found the flaw when sending code from his Yahoo Web mail account to his Gmail account, he wrote on Wednesday. The Web log is hosted by Google's Blogger service.

Google fixed the flaw "very shortly after the initial blog post went up," a representative for the Mountain View, Calif., company said. "We learned of a minor security flaw in Gmail a little while ago and worked quickly to fix the problem, which has now been resolved," the representative said.

Because the vulnerability was fixed quickly, it likely never was exploited in any attacks, the representative said. Still, Google would have preferred to have been alerted to the flaw privately, instead of via a public blog.

"We encourage all vulnerability reporters to follow responsible disclosure practices and notify vendors first before making the vulnerability public," the representative said.

Flaws in online services are found regularly. Last December, Google fixed a security hole in the mechanism it uses to generate error pages for forbidden redirects and pages that don't exist on the Google Web site. The flaw opened the door to phishing scams, account hijacks and other attacks.

Similar flaws have been discovered and fixed in other parts of Google's Web site, as well as in Microsoft's Xbox 360 Web site and Yahoo's Web-based e-mail service.

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4 comments

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14?
Why is a 14 year old sending java script around?
Posted by oo7evan (1 comment )
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..why not?
when i was 14 i began learning javascript. not exactly sure why he was sending it from one email account to the other though. it makes more sense that he was trying to find a flaw in the first place.

i can already imagine what the flaw was. an email with javascript code most likely was mistakingly used in the browser while inside the email instead of converting the code to unalterable text for display.
Posted by assman (1101 comments )
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14 years olds are more brilliant than you think
Because they can. Remember when you were 14? :)

Kids are getting smarter and smarter these days, contrary to what the media would have you believe. One 14-year I worked with a few years ago had attained full Novell certification(Certified Novell Engineer)- on top of doing his regular high school curriculum. Yup, wrote and passed all the relevant Novell Netware exams. He became the de-facto Network Administrator for the school. Too bad he easily succumbed to peer pressure, and granted all his buddies admin privileges too.

And his peers were all 14-15 year old Linux hackers. A vendor plugged in their unix firewall appliance at the high school, and minutes later it was hacked to bits.

Just imagine - if they can do all this before even hitting puberty - how much more could they do years down the road?
Posted by (4 comments )
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