Google is downplaying talk of security issues involving the sharing controls in Google Docs that were published by a security consultant. Google says it is investigating the Google Docs collaboration issues.
is downplaying potential privacy issues in Google Docs that were
recently brought to light.
In his blog March 26, Security consultant Ade
Barkah published information about three privacy issues in Google Docs
to the system's content sharing controls. The most serious of the issues is not
described in detail, although he contends that it could be abused in certain
circumstances to allow someone to access a document even after that person's
access rights have been taken away.
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issues involving Google Docs.
Barkah has been in touch with Google about his findings, and a spokesperson
at the company said the issues he raised are being investigated, though the
company does not believe the issues represent a serious threat to users.
Barkah demonstrated that embedded images in documents can still be accessed
by people with whom the documents had been shared even if that document is no
longer shared, or even after it has been deleted.
"When you embed ('insert') an image from your computer into a Google
Document, that image is 'uploaded' onto Google servers and assigned an
ID," Barkah wrote. "From then on, the image is accessible via a
In addition, when a document contains a Docs diagram, it is possible for
people with whom that document was shared as a collaborator to see the diagram
even if it was redacted.
"In Google Docs, a diagram is a set of instructions that's rasterized
into an image (in PNG format)," he
wrote. "Each time you modify a diagram, a new raster image is created, but
the old versions remain accessible via a URL, in the format:
docs.google.com/drawings/image?id=1234&...&rev=23&ac=1. To view any
previous version, just change the 'rev=' number above."
In fairness to Google, the examples involve documents that have already been
shared, which assumes a certain degree of trust.
"We take the security of our users' information very seriously and are
investigating the concerns raised by the researcher," a Google
spokesperson said. "Based on the information we've received, we do not
believe there are significant security issues with Google Docs. We will share
more information as soon as it's available."