Early last week, a security breach was discovered in Google Webmaster Tools that allowed those who once had access to certain sites to be able to access them again, and dozens of site owners were reporting changes to their sites that they had not made.
This breach had allowed former users of these sites, such as previous employees, IT staff, and others to access some of the most sensitive data within the site’s index page and make major changes that could be potentially damaging to the current owner’s pages. Some of the changes that were reported by site owners were changes to links, owner accounts, and the reactivation of Google Talk accounts that had been deleted or blocked. Many Google users expressed dismay over the breach, which Google scrambled to fix.
The security breach brought up the question about the strength of Google’s security; this is understandable, seeing as how many of those who gained access were ex-employees who might bear a grudge against a corporate or business account and wreak some serious havoc on their sites. Since the breach was not noticed right away, it is unclear how long unauthorized individuals had access to those accounts or how many sites were affected.
The news hit Twitter first when Google customers themselves began to notice changes to their sites that they had not made and contacted other users to see if they were seeing the same kinds of changes. Others who once had access commented as well, tweeting that they once again could get into these accounts.
Google later reported that the issue only existed for about twelve hours and that only a small percentage of sites were affected, but those page owners whose sites were affected did not take this breach lightly. Some customers were upset that sensitive data continued to be accessible even as the company tried to fix the breach and wondered why Google simply did not take Webmaster Tools offline while they attempted to contain the problem.
After the breach was fixed, Google verified that they had fixed the problem but they were not sure what had caused it in the first place. Additionally, the company reported that they were taking steps to assure that a serious security breach like this did not happen again in the future.
Was your Google Webmaster Tools account impacted?