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Massive Gmail bug may have exposed every single user’s address

Published Jun 12th, 2014 2:17PM EDT
Gmail Bug

A huge flaw in Google’s wildly popular Gmail service was recently discovered that may have exposed the email addresses of every single user. According to a report from Wired, security researcher Oren Hafif found and helped Google fix a serious bug that left Gmail users’ email addresses exposed to anyone with a bit of patience. While digging up addresses would have taken quite a bit of time, the report notes that the bug had existed for years before it was fixed, and it easily could have been utilized to obtain every Gmail user’s address.

According to the report, the bug would not have exposed any passwords or other sensitive data.

“The exploit involved a lesser-known account-sharing feature of Gmail that allows a user to ‘delegate’ access to their account,” Wired’s Andy Greenberg wrote. “In November of last year, Hafif found that he could tweak the URL of a webpage that appears when a user is declined that delegated access to another user’s account. When he changed one character in that URL, the page showed him that he’d been declined access to a different address. By automating the character changes with a piece of software called DirBuster, he was able to collect 37,000 Gmail addresses in about two hours.”

Using the flaw, Hafif says he could have obtained the email addresses of every single Gmail user in the world in a matter of days or weeks.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.