Thursday, July 21, 2011

Google fixes major flaw in URL removal tool

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Google has fixed a bug in its URL removal tool that allowed anyone to remove content from Google's search listings.

The web firm told V3 that the problem has been resolved, and that there did not appear to be any widespread malicious use of the flaw.

"We've confirmed that there was an issue within the URL removal feature in our Webmaster Tools and have already pushed out a fix and re-enabled URL removals," Google said in a statement to V3.

"The URL removal feature kept detailed records, so we're currently reprocessing earlier removal requests to ensure their validity. Our initial examination has shown only a limited impact."

The bug was highlighted by James Breckenridge, operations director at UK Web, who found that, with some minor modifications to the URL, it was possible to remove links to web sites over which he had no control.

"[I] made a little mistake and accidentally removed a URL of a web site I have no relation to. I was stunned it could be that easy," he wrote in a blog post.

"I think this is probably the biggest vulnerability in Google today and why I am highlighting it here. I can't believe I am the only person to figure this out, and there are a number of things that could be happening right now if this information is already in the wrong hands."

Google also announced that it will close Google Labs, a surprising move considering that the initiative has spawned a number of successful products including Google Trends, Google Maps, Google Reader and iGoogle.

Bill Coughran, senior vice president for research and systems infrastructure at Google, confirmed that the majority of experiments will be terminated, but that remnants of Google Labs will live on.

"In many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments. In others we'll incorporate Labs products and technologies into different product areas. And many of the Labs products that are Android apps today will continue to be available on Android Market," he said in the Official Google Blog.
"We'll continue to push speed and innovation - the driving forces behind Google Labs - across all our products, as the early launch of the Google+ field trial last month showed."


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