Security Experts:

Google Apps Script Allowed Hackers to Automate Malware Downloads

Researchers at Proofpoint discovered recently that Google Apps Script could have been abused by malicious hackers to automatically download malware hosted on Google Drive to targeted devices.

Google Apps Script is a JavaScript-based scripting language that allows developers to build web applications and automate tasks. Experts noticed that the service could have been leveraged to deliver malware by using simple triggers, such as onOpen or onEdit.

In an attack scenario described by Proofpoint, attackers uploaded a piece of malware to Google Drive and created a public link to it. They then used Google Docs to send the link to the targeted users. Once victims attempted to edit the Google Docs file, the Apps Script triggers would cause the malware to be automatically downloaded to their devices. Researchers said attackers could have used social engineering to convince the target to execute the malware.

Google has implemented new restrictions for simple triggers in an effort to block malware and phishing attacks triggered by opening a document.

While there is no evidence that this method has been exploited in the wild, malicious actors abusing Google Apps Script is not unheard of. A cybercrime group using the infamous Carbanak malware at one point leveraged the service for command and control (C&C) communications.

“SaaS platforms remain a ‘Wild West’ for threat actors and defenders alike. New tools like Google Apps Script are rapidly adding functionality while threat actors look for novel ways of abusing these platforms. At the same time, few tools exist that can detect threats generated by or distributed via legitimate software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms,” explained Maor Bin, security research lead of Threat Systems Products at Proofpoint. 

“This creates considerable opportunities for threat actors who can leverage newfound vulnerabilities or use ‘good for bad’: making use of legitimate features for malicious purposes,” he added.

A few months ago, Google announced the introduction of new warnings for potentially risky web apps and Apps Scripts.

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Related: Google Tightens OAuth Rules to Combat Phishing

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.