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Google Security Technology

Oxford Temporarily Blocks Google Docs To Fight Phishing 128

Posted by timothy
from the you've-been-cloud dept.
netbuzz writes "Fed up with phishers using Google Forms to commandeer campus email accounts as spam engines, Oxford University recently blocked access to Google Docs for two-and-a-half hours in what it called an 'extreme action' designed to get the attention of both its users and Google. 'Seeing multiple such incidents the other afternoon tipped things over the edge,' Oxford explains in a blog post. 'We considered these to be exceptional circumstances and felt that the impact on legitimate University business by temporarily suspending access to Google Docs was outweighed by the risks to University business by not taking such action.' The move generated widespread complaints from those affected, as well as criticism from outside network professionals."
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Oxford Temporarily Blocks Google Docs To Fight Phishing

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  • Re:Report Abuse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlkRb0t (1610449) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:35PM (#42946839)
    How is Google Docs employed for phishing? Can anyone enlighten me here? I've used Google Docs at certain times and don't see how it can be used to tricking users to believe that it is the original site they're entering the data into. Or am I missing something here? Unless the users are really that dumb to enter their info.
  • by Sedated2000 (1716470) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:44PM (#42946897)
    I, like others, would like to know exactly how Google Docs is used for phishing. I've used Google Docs off and on since it was made available. I can't think of a particular feature that would make it an enticing service to use for phishing.

    Can anyone offer an example or offer up an anecdote where they've encountered it?
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:52PM (#42946945) Homepage

    One of the things our SiteTruth system does is report on major sites that host phishing scams. [sitetruth.com] There are only 34 such sites today. As it has been for several years now, Google is at the top of the list.

    Here's the list of all known phishing sites currently hosted by Google. [sitetruth.com]. Scroll down through all that background data about the company to a big block of red "phishtank report (2013-02-01): Phony site reported via PhishTank." lines. Click on the links for a PhishTank report. The raw data comes mostly from PhishTank. Most exploitable hosting services (especially short-URL services) check PhishTank and the APWG list automatically, but not Google.

    Google has several vulnerabilities. It's possible to host an attack page not only on Google Sites and Google Docs, but also on Google Spreadsheets. Recently, Google added a new attack vector; there's an open redirector at Google Accounts. [phishtank.com]

    Amusingly, for some, but not all, of these phishing sites, Google's own anti-phishing warning pops up. But the part of Google that generates that blacklist clearly doesn't talk to the part of Google that does hosting.

    Here's the oldest phishing site hosted by Google. [google.com] On line since 2010-12-30. It's one of those "Habbo Coins" phishing pages, probably forgotten by the original attacker, since it forwards to a dead Hotmail account.

    When we first started doing this analysis, Google wasn't on the list, because they didn't do hosting. There were about 150 sites listed in 2009. Through improved awareness, nagging and the Anti-Phishing Working Group, we're down to 34 - a few little sites with no clue, ones that just got hit by break-ins, and "bit.ly", which tries to keep up with their abuse problem but is falling behind. MSN, Yahoo, TinyURL, and most of the other big-time victims long ago solved their problems in this area. Google stands alone as a major service with an incompetent abuse department.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @03:14PM (#42947153)

    Why is this at all google's fault? Why should they have to police google docs in such a fashion? Blame the people who suddenly decided phishing was a good idea.

    Because they are providing the tool that is so easily abused by phishers.

    It wasn't too long ago that open email relays were very common (and were quite useful), but now they are quickly blacklisted due to spammer abuse even though it's the spammer at fault, not the owner of the email relay.

    If I set up a booth outside your house giving away free universal keys that will open every lock in your house, you would probably have a problem with it even if the keys are perfectly legal to sell and have many legitimate uses. Even if it's only the criminals that will use the keys to break into your house, you probably wouldn't want me making it easier for them.

    You'd think that with all of the brain-power that Google has, they'd be able to come up with an automatic detection method for these scams that triggers an immediate manual review of suspected sites with a quick takedown - even though Google responds to abuse notifications within a few hours (as opposed to the few days it used to take them), a lot of personal information can be stolen in a few hours.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @03:48PM (#42947497)

    Read the article. It's not stupid, it's being focussed somewhere else. As the article notes, a senior professor considered a world expert in Aztec culture or hunting Higgs Boson might not be an expert in IT, or focussing closely on IT forms when they are trying to crack a tricky problem in their field.

    I like it that you write off Oxford university academics and students as stupid. Mind you, to be fair I don't know where you got your education from ;-)

  • Re:Report Abuse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brandon Hume (73471) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:07PM (#42950651) Homepage

    I'm the same for

    What I've done is written a script that generates random usernames and passwords and submits them to the form. The phishers then need to pick out the real stuff from the garbage I pumped in.

    I've had phishers delete a form before Google did, simply because I pissed them off too much. *Very* satisfying, let me tell you. :)

    Here's a phish I received just two hours ago: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RPht7SPAZywd3L13_lLMeB1pCAz6ufe6LX-S7YKtaR8/viewform [google.com]
    Feel free to join in the fun and type some garbage! The spam that contained the link was even written to spoof the quarantine message from our own antispam appliances.

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