LOS ANGELES— Quick warning: if there’s an email in your inbox asking you to open a Google Docs from anyone, and you don’t know who it is, don’t open it.
It’s mostly a phishing email disguised as a contact attempting to share a file from Google Docs, says Google.
A reliable Google Doc invites you to edit a document or file and has the blue Google Docs logo next to the doc name.
Google released a statement Wednesday, saying it had taken action to protect users against the impersonating email, and have disabled offending accounts. “We’ve removed the fake pages pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again. We encourage users to report phishing emails in Gmail.”
The bogus email sent to this reporter, recovered from the email trash folder, had been updated with a warning message from Google: “Be careful with this message. Similar messages were used to steal people’s individual information. Unless you trust the sender, don’t click links or reply with individual information.”
When users click on the file, the fake Google Docs will seek to allow to access your account. Users who click on the link and follow through with the process should go to Google’s account allows denying access.
Fatemeh Khatibloo, an analyst with Forrester Research, says she hasn’t seen such a widespread example of a Google Docs scam like this before because Google has the resources to shut it down really fast. “Email service providers can’t move as swiftly, plus the phishing isn’t happening entirely in their ecosystem, which is why email phishing is so much more prevalent.”
Phishing is a common tactic used to gain access to a user’s login credentials. In most cases, users are asked to click on a link, then provide account details to access the information provided. However, the process provides the user’s credentials to the attacker, allowing them access to email accounts, social networks like Facebook or other platforms.
Best practices: if you receive an e-mail of this type and don’t know the sender, don’t open it, period.
“Always be skeptical,” says Khatibloo. “If you’re not expecting a document from someone, or get a strange email from them, drop them a text message or start a new email chain to them. Don’t grant access to your accounts without checking to make sure the app was made by the company it says it was. And make sure you’re running good malware protection on your devices — it wouldn’t have stopped the phishing scam in this case, but it’s a good line of defense to have on your side.”
SECURITY CHECK UP CENTER
The first suggestion is to not click on links in emails from someone you might not know, especially if the subject line just says “documents.” Second, if you do show up at the login screen then see if it recognizes you as a Google user. If it does not, then that is a clear sign it is part of a phishing scam.
What to do if you fell for the scam:
- Sign in to the affected Google account
- Visit Google’s “Security Checkup” page
- Go to the “Account Permissions” section
- Look for “Google Docs” and hit “Remove”