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Posts from the ‘Shoddy Security’ Category


City of Los Angeles demands partial refund from Google; LAPD says Google Apps not secure

The City of Los Angeles made a big mistake when it decided to do business with the Monster of Mountain View. Now the city is trying to get a partial refund from Google because some of its departments refuse to use Google’s insecure Apps offering:

Two years after the City of Los Angeles approved a $7.25 million deal to move its e-mail and productivity infrastructure to Google Apps, the migration has still not been completed because the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies are unsatisfied with Google’s security related to the handling of criminal history data.

Los Angeles officials originally expected to roll Google Apps out to its 30,000 users by June 2010, in partnership with systems integration contractor CSC. But that number has been reduced to about 17,000 employees, largely because of security objections raised by the LAPD and other safety-related departments. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog opposed the deal, and this week released a letter LA officials sent to CSC in August, which states “The City is in receipt of your letter dated May 13, 2011, wherein CSC indicates that it is unable to meet the security requirements of the City and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for all data and information, pursuant to U.S. DOJ Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) policy requirements.”

Google has a poor reputation when it comes to privacy and security. That’s because Google’s business model is built on collecting as much user data as possible and monetizing it. Google’s response to security problems has been to collect even more personal information; these days, Gmail users are asked to associate their mobile phone numbers with their Google accounts, all in the name of improved security.

Of course, if a person who uses only GoogleTech loses their Android phone, their email, contacts, web history, and so much more could all be compromised simultaneously. That’s the danger of trusting one company with your data.


Google’s “Chromebooks” have gaping security holes, researcher says

Surprise, surprise:

Google may see its Chrome operating system as more secure than traditional alternatives, but one security researcher believes the cloud-based OS is vulnerable, according to a Reuters story published yesterday.

WhiteHat Security researcher Matt Johansen said he found a flaw in a Chrome OS application that he was able to exploit to gain control of a Google e-mail account. Though Google fixed the flaw after it was reported, Johansen claims to have discovered other applications with the same flaw, Reuters said.

In citing the security holes in Chrome OS, Johansen specifically pointed to the ability of hackers who can steal data as it moves between the cloud and the Chrome OS browser instead of hacking directly into a user’s PC.

“I can get at your online banking or your Facebook profile or your e-mail as it is being loaded in the browser,” he told Reuters. “If I can exploit some kind of Web application to access that data, then I couldn’t care less what is on the hard drive.”

Google’s “Chromebooks” are basically nothing more than glorified computer security terminals providing access to Google’s opaque datacenters with sod-all security. People concerned about their privacy and security would do well to stay far, far away from Google’s offerings.

Google, of course, reacted very defensively when asked for comment about this. They’d like people to believe their products are secure. But reality has proved otherwise. Security seems to be an afterthought as far as Google is concerned. That’s because Google’s business isn’t security, it’s data-mining.


Researchers: 99% of Google’s Android devices are vulnerable to password theft

Surprise, surprise…. security on Android is sod-all:

The vast majority of devices running Google’s Android operating system are vulnerable to attacks that allow adversaries to steal the digital credentials used to access calendars, contacts, and other sensitive data stored on the search giant’s servers, university researchers have warned.

The weakness stems from the improper implementation of an authentication protocol known as ClientLogin in Android versions 2.3.3 and earlier, the researchers from Germany’s University of Ulm said. After a user submits valid credentials for Google Calendar, Contacts and possibly other accounts, the programming interface retrieves an authentication token that is sent in cleartext. Because the authToken can be used for up to 14 days in any subsequent requests on the service, attackers can exploit them to gain unauthorized access to accounts.

“We wanted to know if it is really possible to launch an impersonation attack against Google services and started our own analysis,” the researchers in the university’s Institute of Media Informatics wrote on Friday. “The short answer is: Yes, it is possible, and it is quite easy to do so.”

The researchers’ findings are pretty damning. Although Google has supposedly released a patch to address the problem, it has only been made available for newer versions of Android. 99% of the Android devices currently in use run a version that hasn’t been patched. Android users are being advised to avoid public wi-fi networks to mitigate this incredibly serious problem.

But it’s unlikely that most of the people walking around with Google spyware-laden phones and tablets have even heard about this issue, or could taken action even if they knew (Google’s deals with major mobile carriers give them control over updates to Android devices, which prevents the Monster of Mountain View from delivering all updates directly to users).

For all of its sins, Apple at least refuses to allow carriers to have any say in when and how iOS updates are delivered. That’s not to say that the proprietary business model Apple has built is a good thing, but users should be able to update software for their devices when it is available, and it should be their choice. Smartphones and tablets ought to be under the control of the people who own them, not the giant corporations that sell them.


Young Armenian blogger discovers huge Google security hole

Kudos to Vahe G for once again reminding us why entrusting our user data to Google is a bad idea:

Facebook would probably just consider this a feature, but the rest of us will definitely consider this a big security hole. The creator of (don’t visit that site just yet) emailed us this morning to explain.

If you’re already logged in to any Google account (Gmail, etc.), and visit that site, he’s harvested your Google email. And proves it by emailing you immediately.

What Vahe did is use Google’s Blogger to create a blog (on BlogSpot) and then take advantage of a security vulnerability to harvest the email address of anyone signed in with a Google account. The harvesting was taking place just by visiting the blog in question. As proof, Vahe was sending messages to the harvested addresses urging the individuals who own those addresses to share a shortlink pointing to the blog with friends.

After TechCrunch reported the exploit, Google took down the blog, and Vahe sent an email to TechCrunch’s founder, Mike Arrington, explaining the vulnerability:

Hi Mr. Arrington,

I see you have already shared the news. It’s good that google got it down, I really don’t want people to know about how that was done (if Google contacts I will definitely tell them – they just don’t answer my emails). Problem relies solely on Google.

Problem is I asked a lot of people, and most of them don’t really understand and care about this kind of things and big companies act like they all really protect our privacy and such, but they see that people don’t care and don’t do anything really.

Vahe G. (Armenian 21yrs guy whom Google doesn’t wanted to even talk to)

That’s one incredibly smart guy.

Google’s response?

We quickly fixed the issue in the Google Apps Script API that could have allowed for emails to be sent to Gmail users without their permission if they visited a specially designed website while signed into their account. We immediately removed the site that demonstrated this issue, and disabled the functionality soon after. We encourage responsible disclosure of potential application security issues to

It’s telling that the issue only got addressed after it made it onto one of the most widely-read technology blogs in the world. By not catching these things earlier, Google is exposing its users to external harm. All the more reason not to have a Google account and not do business with Google at all.