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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Google Book Search Security Hole

Brian Mingus informed me of a security bug in Google Book Search. When you search for a book, like intitle:Miracles, and then click on the result you are required to log-in. After doing so, you will be forward to the book page. Now copy the URL (which includes an “auth” – authentication – parameter) and send it to someone else... and that someone else will suddenly be logged in to your Google Account.

I’ve reproduced this behavior by logging in to Google Book search using a Gmail account in Internet Explorer. I then closed IE, switched to Firefox, and logged out of my Google account in Firefox. I then opened the URL with the “auth” field, and found myself being automatically logged into the account – the password of which I didn’t enter in Firefox.

Now from what I understand and tested, you will not be able to switch into other Google account applications (like Gmail) this way, and you will not be able to hack anyone else’s account this way – all you do is see the other person’s Gmail name. So the only thing you can do with this information is to be careful to remove the “auth” field from Google Book search URLs you pass on to others.


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