Here is a screenshot of the vulnerability:
If you want to see the vulnerability for yourself click here (this is a benign proof of concept). As I said, this is using the query string from a valid feed to inject the vector. It doesn’t work if you inject it into the Add Content function on the page because the page itself sanitizes the output. Unfortunately for Google this can be intercepted far earlier than the page that does the eventual sanitization. One of the worst parts of this is that it does not require you to be logged in to exploit this cross site scripting vulnerability.
Additionally. in a few seconds of searching, I also found that Google has yet another URL redirection attack in it that can be used for phishing attacks located here (will redirect you to a benign site that demonstrates the attack). Google has been pretty notoriously slow at fixing these sorts of attacks in a timely manner (the last one that was actually being used by phishers was open for nearly a month), but they are really bad, because phishers can easily bounce their traffic off of these trusted domains. People are far more likely to click on a website that says www.google.com than they are to click on a site that says www.wellfsarg0.com or something equally obvious. I understand they are used for tracking purposes, but there are ways around this, like checking against whitelists, or checking against an embedded hash, etc. It’s processor intensive, but it protects the internet community.
Also in a few minutes of checking, id found a CSRF in Google (cross site request forgery) where malicious websites can change the default map search location. This is really not a big deal as far as I can tell besides annoying Google and it’s users, but it’s worth mentioning. Make sure you are logged into Google and then click on the following CSRF to change your default location to the whitehouse. Annoying, but I doubt there is a bigger hole here. The point is that Google definitely has not protected against CSRF, and I am sure there are additional vulnerabilities here that I have not played with since I only spent a few minutes looking at it.
So back to the cross site scripting vector, since that is by far the most dangerous. What are the implications of this attack for Google? Well, for starters, I can put a phishing site on Google. “Sign up for Google World Beta.” I can steal cookies to log in as the user in question, I can use the credentials of the user to screen scrape any of the content off of the www cname, including changing options like adding my RSS feed to your page, or deleting them, etc… I can steal your phone number from the /sendtophone application via an XML RPC (AJAX) call via a POST method, get your address because maps.google.com is mirrored on http://www.google.com/maphp?hl=en&tab=wl&q= etc… the list of potential vulnerabilities goes on and on. The vulnerabilities only grow as Google builds out their portal experience.
Indeed this also could have massive blackhat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) implications as Google sets itself as the authority in page rank (above other sites with more traffic). Its own page is set as a 10 in page rank. Trusting yourself could actually prove to be dangerous in this case, although this is a theoretical attack. Injecting your own links and getting engines to spider it could temporarily dramatically inflate page rank as /ig/ (where the vulnerable function is stored) is not disallowed by Google’s robots.txt file (again this is a theoretical attack and it is easy for Google to de-list violators).
Ultimately, Google cannot be trusted implicitly because of these types of holes, in the same way any major site cannot be trusted implicitly for the same reason. There are too many potential issues in their applications, and your information is definitely not 100% safe when entered there.
This will become particularly relevant at Jeremiah Grossman’s talk at Blackhat next month, where he starts to go into the real issues with cross site scripting, and how dangerous these forms of attack really can be (far beyond what is currently well known). Can you tell I’m excited? I don’t particularly blame Google, as all major websites are vulnerable to this, in my experience, it’s just that with a site’s popularity it becomes exponentially more dangerous and the responsibility to find these issues before the security community increases at the same rate.