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Flaw turns Gmail into spamming machine

A "serious security flaw" in Google's e-mail client allows spammers to send thousands of bulk e-mails through the company's SMTP service, according to a recent report.

A "serious security flaw" in Gmail turns Google's e-mail service into a spamming machine, according to a recent security report.

INSERT, the Information Security Research Team, has created a proof of concept that exploits the "trust hierarchy" that exists between mail service providers. By exploiting a flaw in the way Google forwards messages, a spammer can send thousands of bulk e-mails through Google's SMTP service, bypassing Google's 500-address bulk e-mail limit and identity fraud protections.

The report notes that with the rising volume of spam, e-mail providers have turned to whitelists and blacklists to help root out IP addresses of known spammers. Because Gmail falls into the trusted-whitelist category, messages are allowed "carte blanche" to bypass spam filtering.

INSERT's report notes that no extraordinary Internet expertise is necessary to exploit the flaw:

In this regard, this document presents a vulnerability report and a proof-of-concept attack that demonstrate how anyone with no special Internet access privileges other than being able to connect to SMTP (TCP port 25) and HTTP (TCP port 80) servers is able to exploit a single Gmail account in order to be granted nearly unrestricted access to Google's massive whitelisted SMTP relay infrastructure.

Google has offered no official comment on the report.

This isn't the first Google tool to appeal to spammers. In April, my colleague Elinor Mills reported that spammers were now using Google Calendar.