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Phishing threat to Google Gadgets

Researcher claims Google tool can be misused

The domain used to host small Google Gadget applications written by web developers could be misused by phishers, according to a web security researcher.

Google Gadgets are little programs that gather information on the web and then display them on multiple web pages. They are used to give webmasters an easy way to display everything from sports scores to astronomical data on their sites.

Unfortunately, they can also be misused by phishers to get around antiphishing filters. Attackers could create a phishing site on the gmodules.com domain and then send that URL to victims. Because Google's gmodules.com domain is trusted by antiphishing filters, victims might then go to the phishing site without being warned by their browser's filtering software.

Security researcher Robert Hansen, a frequent critic of Google, reported the issue to the company's security team, but he was not satisfied with their response. He says Google told him that what he sees as a flaw is simply part of the site's expected behaviour. Google couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

Google should restrict the URLs that can use this domain to avoid helping online criminals, said Hansen, who is CEO of SecTheory. "If they leave it intact, I guarantee you it will be used in an attack."

Such an attack would probably be obvious, however, to a vigilant web surfer, who would know better than to enter banking information on a site hosted on the gmodules.com domain.

There's not much that can be done to prevent phishers from abusing sites like this, if Google wants to let its users create content, said Alex Stamos, a researcher with Isec Partners. "They have to have this throw-away domain to jail modules written by other people," he said via email. "It's not an unreasonable model, and it's the best they can do to host content created by malicious parties while not exposing themselves to attack."


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