In looking for a program to back up his Gmail account, programmer Dustin Brooks found a commercial program that instead copies username and password information, according to a blog on Codinghorror.com.
Over the weekend, Brooks said in an e-mail to CodingHorrror.com that he was looking for a program that would archive his Gmail account onto his local hard drive. He signed up for a program called G-Archiver distributed by Mate Media of Miami, Fla. Brooks says that after installing the program, it didn't do all he was looking for so he decided to reverse engineer the source code using a program called Reflector for .Net.
Inside the source code Brooks found the program author's e-mail address and account password for Gmail. Thinking that was a little strange, Brooks used the hardcoded information to open John Terry's Gmail account. There, Brooks alleges he found 1,777 messages, all of which had username and passwords for people who signed up for the G-Archiver, including his own. In other words, whenever anyone signed up for the program, as Brooks had, a copy of his or her username and password was sent to John Terry's Gmail account.
Hardcoding e-mail addresses isn't new. In a presentation at Black Hat D.C. 2008 a few weeks ago, researchers Nitesh Dhanjani and Billy Rios reported that phishing site creators frequently hardcode e-mail addresses into the code in order to receive copies of the personal information submitted independent of where the Web form is being sent.
Brooks says upon realizing what each of the e-mails contained, he then deleted all the mail and emptied the trash. He then changed the author's password, and reported firstname.lastname@example.org's abuse to Google.
On the CodingHorror.com site this morning, Brooks wrote "Granted my actions may have been a little quick and harsh, I was a little upset over the whole deal. I have a lot of personal info in my account along with a stored credit card for Google checkout. I very easily just could have changed my password and been done with it, but I didn't want more people compromising their accounts as well. The only e-mails in this account were usernames/passwords. This wasn't a personal account used for other things."
A number of sites have since removed G-Archiver from their download collection, including CNET Download.com. Attempts to contact Mate Media have so far gone unanswered.