Google Shores Up Email Security With Contacts API

from the your-password-please dept

Anyone who's visited more than a handful of "social networking" sites have come across one that asks you to give it the password to your GMail/HotMail/Yahoo! account in order to add everyone in your email address book to your list of friends. This kind of borderline spam request is questionable in the best of circumstances, but Ben Adida points out a frightening story in which one of these sites was emailing the username and password of every user to the author's personal GMail account. Fortunately, the guy who discovered this says he did the right thing, deleting the accumulated emails, closing the account, and notifying Google. So it looks like no major harm was done. But this general pattern of a website asking for the user's password on another site is a serious problem, because it gets users in the habit of handing over passwords to sites that may or may not be trustworthy. Users ought to refuse to comply with these requests. The problem is that most sites don't provide a more secure mechanism for giving third-party sites secure and limited access to information in a user's accounts. But Adida notes that Google is working to fix the problem by releasing an API that allows third-party sites to securely access GMail users' contact information. The key difference here is that instead of giving the third-party site her GMail password, the site sends a request to Google and then the user has to log into GMail to authorize the sharing. This gives the third-party site limited access to the user's contact data without ever seeing the user's actual password. It's a great idea, and I hope Yahoo! and Microsoft follow suit.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Danno, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    That's a bit of a mischaracterization of the Coding Horror article.

    The software that was doing the mailing there was a GMail account archiver, not a social networking site trying to access your contacts.

    That's not to say that giving out your account and password wouldn't expose you identically in the proposed situation, of course.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Paul, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

    Eve-Online uses API keys at the moment, We are given a limited and a strong API key and are told what information is given out with each.

    This has so far turned out to be a godsend for game players who want to use out of game programs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    anon, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    google a little please

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    tim, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Yah, it's a great idea and Yahoo's supported it fo

    welcome to the party, Google

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Ever heard of OAuth?, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    This is not a new idea.

    Do your research, Google's just ripping of the OAuth platform.

    Here:
    http://oauth.net/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    Re: This is not a new idea.

    Agreed. It would be interesting to see Microsoft, Yahoo, et al implement OAuth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    GB, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 1:44pm

    Yahoo'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    GB, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 1:47pm

    Yahoo's been doing this for quite some time

    It's called BBAuth.

    -GB.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2008 @ 11:21am

    Microsoft has the Contact API as well

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Email Security, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 1:03am

    comment:

    That was indeed a frightening story.Releasing an API that allows third-party sites to securely access GMail users' contact information...sounds like an obvious solution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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