Status Update: Our Bob Jones reported yesterday on a furvor over Google Webmaster Tools having had serious security issues. Having contacted Google myself, the company’s official response to the situation was forthcoming today. Google insists the “access granted” problem was highly localized, and that the problem has since been resolved.
By way of background, while some initially thought the news SEO expert Dave Naylor broke might have been a hoax of some kind, in reality access to Webmaster was granted to some unauthorized persons. Basically, what Naylor found was that access to Google Webmaster Tools for some websites somehow reverted backward to allow “past” employees or contractors access to company sites they no longer work for. The implications were obvious, and speculation about the extent and potential harm spread pretty fast.
In the meantime, we contacted Google at several levels for answers and comments. At length Google’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Chris Dale, had one of his spokespersons contact me. On the question of what happened at Webmaster, here is Google’s official statement:
“For several hours on Tuesday a small set of Webmaster Tools accounts were incorrectly re-verified for people who previously had access. We’ve reverted these accounts and are investigating ways to prevent this issue from recurring.”
In addition, their spokesperson added that Google Analytics had not been impacted, as had been suggested by some reports. From what I can glean from their statements, Google carried out something of an investigation into exactly what went awry, and found no instance of Analytics being part of the “localized” instance.
The obvious questions most people have being still relevant, certainly it would seem Google is taking steps to safeguard against a repeat incident. Judging from the relatively lite reporting and complaining about the incident at Google Webmaster tools forums, it seems safe to assume all is well that ends well this time.