Attacks/Breaches
2/20/2013
12:30 PM
Connect Directly
Facebook
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Oxford University Briefly Blocks Google Docs

Increase in phishing attacks prompts Oxford University to take "temporary, extreme action."

To confront an increasing number of phishing attacks against the 50,000 users of its computers and networks, Oxford University blocked access to Google Docs for 2.5 hours this week.

In a blog posted Monday, OxCERT, the University's network security team, explained that the action was prompted by an increase in attacks in recent weeks, as well as what it described as slowness by Google's own security team to take down the nefarious Google Docs Web forms. The forms, which masquerade as official communications, collect email, user name and password from those who fill them out.

"Now, we may be home to some of the brightest minds in the nation," Robin Stevens of OxCERT explained in the post. "Unfortunately, their expertise in their chosen academic field does not necessarily make them an expert in dealing with such mundane matters as emails purporting to be from their IT department. Some users simply see that there's some problem, some action is required, carry it out, and go back to considering important matters such as the mass of the Higgs Boson or the importance of the March Hare to the Aztecs."

[ Here's what you should know about the recent Apple and Facebook security breaches. Read Apple, Facebook Twitter Attacks: 6 Key Facts. ]

OxCERT said almost all the recent attacks used Google Docs URLs, and "in some cases the phishing emails have been sent from an already-compromised University account to large numbers of other Oxford users."

OxCERT said it was investigating several technical measures for dealing with the issue, adding it would be pressuring Google to be more responsive.

Reaction to the blockage of Google Docs ranged from understanding and commendations to irritation. "It seems overkill to block Google Docs as a solution for a phishing problem," Sam S. wrote in the comments on the OxCERT blog. Other comments were similar, ranging from thereby avoiding the use of user credentials.

The block, lifted after just 2.5 hours, may help bring attention to the dangers of phishing schemes, Stevens was quoted as saying.

Building a more robust network vulnerability management program can help you identify security holes before an attacker does, as well as develop more secure systems and applications in the future. In the A Guide To Network Vulnerability Management report, we examine the products and practices that will get you there. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PJS880
50%
50%
PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2013 | 9:02:20 PM
re: Oxford University Briefly Blocks Google Docs
They should have suspended services to Google Docs until Google themselves addressed this issue. I think that it is a great service but the risk has gone through the roof in recent weeks. I hope Google gets the message, I know that attending school collaboration of documents is key and being able to access them is key as well. Google should take note and learning instructions should also take heed if results come about form avoiding a services and making a company address the issue maybe more people and business would avoid those services until addressed properly.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3971
Published: 2014-12-25
The CmdAuthenticate::_authenticateX509 function in db/commands/authentication_commands.cpp in mongod in MongoDB 2.6.x before 2.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (daemon crash) by attempting authentication with an invalid X.509 client certificate.

CVE-2014-7193
Published: 2014-12-25
The Crumb plugin before 3.0.0 for Node.js does not properly restrict token access in situations where a hapi route handler has CORS enabled, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information, and potentially obtain the ability to spoof requests to non-CORS routes, via a crafted web site ...

CVE-2004-2771
Published: 2014-12-24
The expand function in fio.c in Heirloom mailx 12.5 and earlier and BSD mailx 8.1.2 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via shell metacharacters in an email address.

CVE-2014-3569
Published: 2014-12-24
The ssl23_get_client_hello function in s23_srvr.c in OpenSSL 1.0.1j does not properly handle attempts to use unsupported protocols, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (NULL pointer dereference and daemon crash) via an unexpected handshake, as demonstrated by an SSLv3 handshak...

CVE-2014-4322
Published: 2014-12-24
drivers/misc/qseecom.c in the QSEECOM driver for the Linux kernel 3.x, as used in Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC) Android contributions for MSM devices and other products, does not validate certain offset, length, and base values within an ioctl call, which allows attackers to gain privileges or c...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.