Google Forced to Suspend Map Maker After an Inability to Defend Against Hackers
Google has temporarily discontinued its Map Maker functionality due to ongoing fake edits made by hackers
Google Map Maker is a service that allows users to make useful edits to Google Maps (similar to the way in which Wikipedia works). This functionality allows users to improve Google’s maps, adding places and correcting any visible mistakes, and thus allows Google to improve their service for users quickly and cost effectively – sounds great right? However there are a number of pesky hackers who have been getting a kick out of making fraudulent edits to locations on Google’s maps.
Edward has a snow den in the White House – an example hack
Below a hacker has humorously inserted “Edwards Snow Den” at the front of the White House.
Android relieves itself on Apple
This must have given Google staff a good laugh!
The service is offline
Google has not got around to fixing the vulnerabilities in the service and thus continuous fraudulent entries such as these have forced Google to temporarily take the service offline:
This message leads to a more detailed explanation from the Google Map Maker team:
As some of you know already, we have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months. The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate – a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map. As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents.
“All of our edits are currently going through a manual review process.
We have been analyzing the problem and have made several changes. However, it is becoming clear that fixing some of this is actually going to take longer than a few days. As you can imagine, turning automated and user moderation off has the direct implication of very large backlogs of edits requiring manual review. This in turn means your edits will take a long time to get published.
Given the current state of the system, we have come to the conclusion that it is not fair to any of our users to let them continue to spend time editing. Every edit you make is essentially going to a backlog that is growing very fast. We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause.
We have hence decided to temporarily disable editing across all countries starting Tuesday, May 12, 2015, till we have our moderation system back in action. This will be a temporary situation and one that we hope to come out of as soon as possible.
While this is a very difficult, short term decision, we think this will help us get to a better state faster. More importantly, we believe it is simply the right thing to do to all of you, our valued users who continue to edit with the hope that your changes might go live as fast as you’ve been used to.”
Google clearly did not want to admit defeat, or suspend their service. However their inability to tackle the weakness of their moderation system has made this a necessary step, and it seems that Map Maker will not be available until they are able to find a solution.