Gmail as a spam engine

May 11, 2008 – 8:35 AM

This is not good. Researchers from INSERT found a vulnerability in the Gmail engine that could allow spammers to forward mail through Google, thereby bypassing blacklists and being accepted by whitelists. It works by using the same forwarding features that allow users, myself included, to forward their email through Gmail. The worst part of this is that it also bypasses Gmails 500 recipient limit for any email, though that part should be easy to fix. I hope.

INSERT has been courteous enough to omit a fair amount of the details of the vulnerability, but I think there’s enough general information in the notification that spammers will be able to figure it out soon if Google doesn’t act even faster than the bad guys. Given Google’s track record and the sneaking suspicion that Google was given advance warning of the vulnerability, I’m hoping Gmail can be made secure fairly quickly.

I’ll be interested to see what we hear on this over the next couple of weeks on the Full Disclosure/No Disclosure argument. Did INSERT give Google some warning or did they post this as soon as it was written up? How did Google react? Did Google take the Micorosoft stance of quietly taking the research and fixing the hole before anyone notices? Or did they take the Apple/Cisco approach and threaten to sue INSERT into non-existance? I’m hoping for the former.

Just goes to show you, even the best built, least offensive features in software can be subverted if you put enough brain power into solving the problem.

Source: Network Security Blog

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