Short summary:

In products that use the same real-time collaboration system as Google Docs, an attacker could take over other user’s “real-time sessions”. This means that the attacker could chat, move the cursor, and perform other collaboration-related actions in the name of any victim.

POC Video: - 2:37

Core Issue:

The real-time collaboration system uses a custom 16 char long session ID to authenticate users. When a user opens e.g. a Docs document, the page starts polling the /bind endpoint, which returns as soon as a new event occurs on the document.

The core issue is that the events received by this endpoint almost always contain the session ID of the event initiator. For example, if a new user joins the document, everyone who already has the document open will receive a user object with the new user’s name, profile picture, and among others, with the new user’s session ID.

The obtained session ID then can be used to perform real-time actions in the name of that user.

Steps to reproduce:

This is a written version of the attack performed in the POC video.

  1. Install Burp Suite
  2. Create 3 new users, Attacker, Victim, and Observer
  3. Only start proxying Attacker’s traffic with Burp
  4. With Victim, Create a new Document, and invite Attacker and Observer as Editors
  5. Open the document in all 3 browser windows
  6. Refresh Victim’s page to generate a new join event on the /bind endpoint
  7. In Burp, look for new /bind responses, and find the one that includes Victim’s user object
  8. Note the Victim’s sid from the user object, and Attacker’s sid from the /bind request’s sid parameter
  9. Go to Proxy -> Options -> Match and Replace and click Add
  10. Set the type to Request first line, set Match to Attacker’s sid, set Replace to Victim’s sid, and click OK
  11. With Attacker, send a new chat message
  12. With Observer, open the chat pane, and see that the message was sent by Victim
  13. With Attacker, start typing and/or selecting text
  14. With Observer, see that it looks like Victim is selecting/editing the document

Extra Attacks:

  • Other actions can also be performed when the attacker has the victim’s session ID. For example, using the /leave endpoint, the victim can be “kicked off” from the document, making her invisible for the other users (but can still edit). Any other endpoint that authenticates with that session ID is probably vulnerable, like /active.
  • Moving the cursor requires Editor or Commenter privileges, so a normal Viewer can’t move the cursors of Editors, since the permission is checked on a Google session level. But, endpoints like /chat and /leave can be used by Viewers as well. I was able to chat in the name of any editor with an anonymous (not logged in) account when the document was link-shared with the Viewer permissions. That is interesting, since by design only Editors and Commenters should be able to chat, other roles can’t even see the chat pane.
  • Changing the sid (from Attacker’s to Victim’s) in the bundles object when making an edit with Attacker will crash Victim’s page, with the message Unable to load file - Try to load it again or send an error report.. Other Viewers will not crash, and if they have the Live edits accessibility pane enabled, they will see that the edit was made by Victim. The edit initiator (Attacker) will be correctly shown in the Version history.


  • Changing the sid in the Request first line only changes the user of the selection commands. So, it looks like Attacker is typing in the name of Victim, but actually, Attacker is only moving the cursor in the name of Victim, and editing using her own account. So, checking Version history will correctly show that the edits were made by Attacker.
  • In my research, I wasn’t able to trick the Version history using these session IDs, as it is most likely checking the user’s full Google session.

[Disclosure Warning]:

This is a new system I am experimenting with:

This issue is subject to a 90 day disclosure deadline. On 2021-04-20 this issue with all additional comments will be publicly disclosed. Sensitive details from the report/comments such as names/email addresses will be redacted. If you would like to redact additional information or if for some reason the issue can’t be fixed until the deadline, let me know in a comment.

Thank you!