Google admitted Tuesday its paid-for G Suite of cloudy apps aimed at businesses stored some user passwords in plaintext albeit in an encrypted form.
Administrators of accounts affected by the security blunder were warned via email that, in certain circumstances, passwords had not been hashed. Hashing is a standard industry practice that protects credentials by scrambling them using a one-way encryption algorithm.
Google was at pains to stress it was the enterprise non-consumer version of G Suite affected, that there were no signs of misuse of the passwords, and that the passwords were encrypted at rest on disk – though, we note, hashing them would have fully secured the sensitive info.
Before we get to the threat model part of this, there are essentially two security cockups at play here. The first involves a G Suite feature available from 2005 that allowed organizations’ admins to set their G Suite users’ passwords via the Google account admin console. That feature, designed for IT staff to help new colleagues set their passwords and log in, did not hash these passwords.
The second involves recording some user passwords in plaintext on disk, as they logged in, and keeping these unhashed credentials around for 14 days at a time, again encrypted at rest. This practice started in January this year, during attempts by Googlers to troubleshoot their login system, and has been stopped.