itb-nz logo
Story image

Google shutting down Google+ after covering up privacy bug

09 Oct 2018

Google has announced plans to shut down its social media platform Google+ after the Wall Street Journal reported it failed to disclose to a bug that potentially affected 500,000 accounts.

The Wall Street Journal obtained internal memos showing that Google’s management was aware of the bug, but chose not to share it with the public to avoid scrutiny by regulators.

Soon after the article was published, Google engineering fellow and vice president Ben Smith disclosed the bug and Google’s plans to shut down Google+ in a blog post.

The post says that a bug discovered in one of the Google+ People APIs allowed users to can grant access to their profile data, and the public profile information of their friends, to Google+ apps, via the API.

The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public.  

This data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age.

It does not include any other data users may have posted or connected to Google+ or any other service, like Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers or G Suite content.

Google discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018. It believes it occurred after launch as a result of the API’s interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change.

Google+ API’s log data is only for kept two weeks, so it cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug.

Google ran an analysis over the two weeks prior to patching the bug which showed the Profiles of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were potentially affected.

Up to 438 applications may have used the API.

Google says it found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and it found no evidence that any Profile data was misused.

Smith says in the post that Google+ “has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps.”

“The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

Smith also announced in the blog post that Google will be launching more granular Google Account permissions and tightening up security permissions accessible via its APIs. 

Webroot senior threat research analyst Tyler Moffitt says, “Although it seems that Google has shut down an entire line of business due to this breach, from a GDPR perspective, the company appears to have gotten off lightly.

“Had this breach occurred just a few months later, Google could be subject to strict GDPR fines for not keeping user data safe. 

“It's important for consumers to realise that connecting apps in social media platforms only increases the amount of valuable information that could potentially be breached, as well as increased attack vectors that hackers can leverage.

Story image
Interview: RSA explains security in the epoch of IT disruption
We discussed cybersecurity in terms of how it fits into business continuity, as well as the threat landscape, and what RSA is currently doing to assist businesses that need protection.More
Story image
How to defend cloud environments against insider threats
Let’s discuss the main types of insider threats facing businesses today and explain how to mitigate their risks through various technologies.More
Story image
Nutanix & Udacity launch hybrid cloud nanodegree program
Nutanix is sponsoring 5000 scholarships, to be taught via Udacity, which will school IT professionals on topics such as modern private cloud infrastructure and the design of hybrid application deployment.More
Story image
How data warehouses have become the new data lakes for business
While data lakes are great when it comes to storage, they don’t perform well when it comes to analysis and reporting. The vast volumes and multiple formats mean that traditional data warehouse tools are unsuitable and another approach needs to be found.More
Story image
Genesys releases Rapid Response to support businesses during COVID-19
The offering is designed to give organisations access to Genesys Cloud within 48 hours so they can provide mission critical support and enable remote teams at speed.More
Download image
How to make authentication as painless as possible
Multi-factor authentication seems to be the standard in top-end security authentication systems. But even MFA has its drawbacks. Find out how RSA SecurID provides the best authentication out there. More