Feeds

Google tools gaffe let ZOMBIE web admins feast on websites

Dead accounts resurrected to cause merry hell

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Google potentially allowed former web admins to drive corporate websites off a cliff by resurrecting deleted accounts for its webmaster tools service.

Google Webmaster Tools accounts can be used by anyone to manage their websites, from checking the indexing of pages to fine-tuning their visibility in the dominant search engine. Google's glitch, which revived old or disabled accounts and granted them permission to make alterations, was first noted by search-engine optimisation blogger Dave Naylor.

Although the tools are free to use, they have become quite powerful over the years, and can help make or break a site in terms of visitor numbers. Unauthorised access to the service could be used for all sorts of mischief, Naylor warned:

Webmaster Tools is so much more powerful than it ever was there is a serious risk that damage could be caused to sites by people who no longer have permission to make changes. Things like disavow link lists, de-index urls or the entire site, redirect urls, geolocation alterations… a whole world of pain.

The blunder also opened up access to Google Analytics, allowing ex-employees or contractors to spy on their former employers, Search Engine Journal added.

Fortunately Google resolved the screw-up, according to a statement issued to Searchengineland.com on Wednesday:

For several hours yesterday a small set of Webmaster Tools accounts were incorrectly re-verified for people who previously had access. We’ve reverted these accounts and are investigating ways to prevent this issue from recurring.

The cause of the breach remains unclear. We've put in a query to Google and will update this story if we hear more. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.