Gmail security and recent phishing activityNovember 29, 2008 – 1:11 PM
We’ve seen some speculation recently about a purported security vulnerability in Gmail and the theft of several website owners’ domains by unauthorized third parties. At Google we’re committed to providing secure products, and we mounted an immediate investigation. Our results indicate no evidence of a Gmail vulnerability.
With help from affected users, we determined that the cause was a phishing scheme, a common method used by malicious actors to trick people into sharing their sensitive information. Attackers sent customized e-mails encouraging web domain owners to visit fraudulent websites such as “google-hosts.com” that they set up purely to harvest usernames and passwords. These fake sites had no affiliation with Google, and the ones we’ve seen are now offline. Once attackers gained the user credentials, they were free to modify the affected accounts as they desired. In this case, the attacker set up mail filters specifically designed to forward messages from web domain providers.
Several news stories referenced a domain theft from December 2007 that was incorrectly linked to a Gmail CSRF vulnerability. We did have a Gmail CSRF bug reported to us in September 2007 that we fixed worldwide within 24 hours of private disclosure of the bug details. Neither this bug nor any other Gmail bug was involved in the December 2007 domain theft.
We recognize how many people depend on Gmail, and we strive to make it as secure as possible. At this time, we’d like to thank the wider security community for working with us to achieve this goal. We’re always looking at new ways to enhance Gmail security. For example, we recently gave users the option to always run their entire session using https.