Google fixes Drive bug that sent document links to HTTPS site admins

Google Drive bug warning message

Google Drive bug warning message

Google has fixed a security glitch in Drive that sent the URL of certain collaboration documents to admins of third-party sites but while the problem's solved for newly created documents, users will have to manually remedy the issue for existing documents. 

Google announced new document editing features and Drive for Work at its annual I/O developer conference last week, but it took to its security blog to flag a fix for a bug affecting certain documents with embedded links uploaded to its file storage platform.

According to Google, the Drive bug potentially exposed a shared document’s original URL to administrators of encrypted-session protected (HTTPS) third-party sites. This would happen when a user clicked on an embedded hyperlink in the document to that HTTPS site.

“In this specific instance, if a user clicked on the embedded hyperlink, the administrator of that third-party site could potentially receive header information that may have allowed him or her to see the URL of the original document that linked to his or her site,” Kevin Stadmeyer, a Google technical program manager explained.

As Stadmeyer notes, the bug affected a “small subset” of file types had to meet several conditions to be relevant. Files affected include any that contained an embedded HTTPS link and were uploaded to Drive in its original format. That is, if the document remained as a PDF or .doc file and was not converted to Google’s Docs, Sheets or Slides. The document’s sharing settings would also have to be available to “anyone with the link”  — as opposed to being open to the “public on the web” or the more restrictive “specific people” setting.  

Documents that users consciously make available to anyone with the link are unlikely to have been highly sensitive in the first place, however the bug still potentially exposed documents to an unintended audience.  

Also, the new fix Google only resolves the issue for newly shared documents with hyperlinks to third-party HTTPS websites, meaning that anyone concerned about their Drive documents may need to manually comb through their documents to find any that meet the criteria.

Fixing the problem in older documents involves generating a new link for a collaboration document and deleting the old document.

As per Google’s instructions, users would have to:

1. Create a copy of the document, via File > "Make a copy..."
2. Share the copy of the document with particular people or via a new shareable link, via the “Share” button
3. Delete the original document

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