Over the past few days, there have been a few reports with people creating fake businesses that would be verified via a phone call over on Google Maps. Now, Google has removed these listings and placed new hurdles to make it more difficult to abuse the system.
Many of the listings were actually harmless and people were just having a laugh thanks to something that Google had overlooked in Map Maker. But not all were so innocent and that was obvious when one user took it upon himself to create fake FBI and Secret Service office listings that were close to the real locations, effectively making the entire process even more confusing for regular users.
By using his own phone number, he managed to intercept calls made to both agencies.
According to the user who set this up, when the exploit was active, the wrong phone number would rank higher than the official one.
The effect, of course, isn’t all that massive, but the owner of the wrong phone number managed to listen to and record those who thought were speaking directly to the government agencies.
Obviously, the reports got to Google’s ears and the company quickly removed the fake listings, as well as others that have been spotted and exposed over the past week. The company has also mentioned that it has set up new restrictions to make it more difficult for this type of activity to produce a live place listing on Google Maps.
The problem was caused by Map Maker, a tool that Google created to allow users to add improvements to Google Maps. Edits made over the years have helped keep Google Maps up to date, improved with all these new entries that offer more information about a particular area.
While this all sounds great, it has also opened Google Maps to the sort of abuse mentioned above – where users create fake listings of businesses or state agencies that they have no connection to.
This will most likely lead to a new series of restrictions from Google who will certainly look for ways to block this from happening again.
Regardless, when looking for an institution or a business, it could perhaps be a better idea to look for their official website rather than take out the information from Google Maps, especially if anything seems fishy with the data.
The example above was set up just to prove a point, but exploits that allow phone interception could be a lot more severe.