Google leaked the complete hidden whois data attached to more than 282,000 domains registered through the company’s Google Apps for Work service, a breach that could bite good and bad guys alike.
The 282,867 domains counted by Cisco Systems’ researchers account for 94 percent of the addresses Google Apps has registered through a partnership with registrar eNom. Among the services is one to shield from public view all personal information included in domain name whois records. Starting in mid 2013, a software defect in Google Apps started leaking the data, including names, phone numbers, physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and more. The bug caused the data to become public once a domain registration was renewed. Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group discovered it on February 19 and five days later the leak was plugged, slightly shy of two years after it first sprung.
Whois data is notoriously unreliable, as is clear from all the obviously fake names, addresses and other data that’s contained in public whois records. Still, it’s reasonable to assume that some people might be more forthcoming when using a supposedly privacy-enhancing service Google claimed hid such data. Even in cases where people falsified records, the records still might provide important clues about the identities of the people who made them. Often when data isn’t pseudo-randomized, it follows patterns that can link the creator to a particular group or other Internet record. As Cisco researchers Nick Biasini, Alex Chiu, Jaeson Schultz, Craig Williams, and William McVey wrote:
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