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Hackers sending malicious links via Google Docs

Not for the first time, hackers are using the comments feature in Google Docs to send malicious links to unsuspecting victims.

According to cloud email security solutions provider Avanan, a new wave of attacks primarily targeting Outlook users began in December 2021. Avanan reported that hackers created Google Docs before leaving comments tagging potential victims with their email addresses. This means that the intended victim would receive an email notification from Google that they had been mentioned in a comment in a Google Doc.

Avanan told PCMag: “In that email, which comes from Google, the full comment, including the bad links and text, is included. Further, the email address isn’t shown, just the attackers’ name, making this ripe for impersonators.”

Google Docs targeting causes multiple security problems

Avanan went on to explain the security problems these attacks can cause.

First, as the emails come from Google themselves, rather than the hacker’s email address, they usually won’t end up in junk folders or be picked up and deleted by anti-phishing tools. Secondly, as Google shows the name of the commenter but not their email address, hackers can easily pose as a company or individual that the victim trusts.

Google is reportedly aware of the problem and has been “rolling out additional measures” to help combat this issue since October 2021.

However, it is likely that hackers will quickly find a new way to target unsuspecting victims through Google Docs, even if Google does manage to block off some avenues. Individuals should remain vigilant and not react to any unexpected notifications for Google Docs on which they haven’t already been collaborating. Even if the Google Doc is opened, users would still need to click a link in the comments and potentially take action on another site for malware to be downloaded onto their systems, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop yourself falling victim to such scams.

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