Users of the popular Google Docs file creation, sharing, and storage application are the targets of a new phishing attack. This privacy breach may potentially have grave consequences for individuals and businesses. Those who fall for the scam are at risk of losing control over their email inbox and contact lists. Fortunately, Google has been quick to act in response to this attack. Google Doc users should take steps to secure their accounts and personal information from this latest threat.
How the Attack Works
First identified by a Reddit user called JakeStream, the attack employs a deceptively simple strategy. Users receive an email message from what appears to be a personal contact wanting to “share” a document. Those who click on the link are then re-directed to what seems at first glance to be a Google page asking to access the user’s email account and contact lists. Though it looks like official Google documentation, it is not. It has been carefully designed by a malicious third party to trick users into sharing sensitive data.
According to a warning published on Wired magazine’s website, the sophistication of the scam, and its interface with real Google services and custom web apps, is unsettling. “Phishers can use real Google accounts and develop third-party plugins that can interact with Google services, so they can lure victims in through the most perfect-looking Google web pages of all: Genuine ones.”
Although Google took steps within an hour of the attack’s launch, it estimates that up to a million users around the world got phished in this manner. The company said in a statement released on Twitter that it has “disabled offending accounts. We’ve removed the fake pages, pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again.” The company also suggested that Google Docs users immediately visit g.co/SecurityCheckup and remove apps they do not recognize.
Defence against Phishing
Phishing attacks are a classic weapon in the cyber terrorist’s arsenal and have been since email became an everyday tool for individual and business communications. The attacker sends misleading messages aimed at getting users to share sensitive information such as passwords, credit card information or usernames. Typically, the underlying motive is fraud using various means – from credit card theft to blackmail for financial gain.
Attacks can usually be shut down quickly when they are directed at a large company such as Google, but individuals and businesses should also take precautions to protect their interests. And these security protocols should be regularly reviewed and upgraded. Working with an IT company that is experienced in devising preventive measures against cyber terrorism can protect against the inconvenience and losses incurred from these types of attacks. As IT security companies are constantly upgrading security protocols and sharing information in advance of such attacks, individuals and companies can greatly benefit from their expertise and knowledge.
Google users should investigate tools such as Password Alert, a Chrome extension that helps users avoid phishing attacks by detecting when they enter their Google password into websites that are not Google Sign in page accounts.
And resisting the urge to click does remain your best first line of defense. Don’t click a link or open an email attachment unless you are very sure it is legitimate. If something that is coming from an address that looks odd, as is the case with this current Google Docs phishing attack, trust your instincts – because it may be malicious.
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