Google fixed email spoofing flaw 7 hours after public disclosure

Google addressed an email spoofing vulnerability affecting Gmail and G Suite a few hours after it was publicly disclosed.

Google addressed an email spoofing vulnerability affecting its Gmail and G Suite products a few hours after it was publicly disclosed, but the IT giant was ware of the flaw since April.

On Wednesday, the researcher Allison Husain published technical details of the email spoofing vulnerability in a blog post, which also includes a proof-of-concept (PoC) code.

The vulnerability is caused by missing verifications when configuring mail routes. The issue could have been exploited by an attacker to send an email that appears as sent by another Gmail or G Suite user, the message is able to bypass protection mechanisms such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).

“Due to missing verification when configuring mail routes, both Gmail’s and any G Suite customer’s strict DMARC/SPF policy may be subverted by using G Suite’s mail routing rules to relay and grant authenticity to fraudulent messages.” states the post. “This issue is a bug unique to Google which allows an attacker to send mail as any other user or G Suite customer while still passing even the most restrictive SPF and DMARC rules.”

According to Husain, unlike the classic mail spoofing in which the From header is given an arbitrary value, this technique could not be blocked by mail servers using SPF and DMARC.

Email

The researcher used her personal G Suite domain to send an email apparently coming from an @google.com address to a G Suite email account associated with a domain she did not control.

“I am using my personal G Suite domain (mail-relay@ezh.es) to send a seemingly legitimate email from a google.com address to my university’s G Suite email on a domain which I do not control (test@berkeley.edu).” continues the expert. “I chose to send to another G Suite account to demonstrate that Google’s strong mail filtering and anti-spam techniques do not block or detect this attack. Additionally, I chose to impersonate google.com because their DMARC policy is set to p=reject and so any violations of SPF (regardless of the SPF policy) should result in the message simply being dropped with prejudice.”

The attack exploits a bug related to G Suite’s mail routing rules, which an attacker could have subverted to relay and grant authenticity to fraudulent messages.

Husain reported the flaw to Google on April 3, the company acknowledge the issue on April 16 and marked the issue as duplicate on April 21st, 2020.

On August 1, Husain notified Google her intent to publicly disclose the flaw and set disclosure deadline for August 17th (16 days later).

On August 14, Google told her that it would be releasing a patch on September 17, but Husain publicly disclosed the flaw on August 19.

The good news is that Google fixed the issue seven hours after its details were made public.

Pierluigi Paganini

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