Cybersecurity

Google shutters map editor after hacking pranks

Google will temporarily shutter its online map editing feature on Tuesday after a user hacked the system to draw a park in the shape of the Android cartoon droid peeing on the Apple logo.

The prank was widely circulated online with chuckles, but Google — which developed the mobile operating system Android — didn’t find the incident very funny. In fact, it was the final straw that led to the decision to suspend the map editing feature.

{mosads}“We have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months,” wrote Google Map Maker team member Pavithra Kanakarajan in a product forum post. “The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate.”

Google Map Maker is a browser-based editing feature that lets users alter Google maps, editing and redrawing roads, hiking trails, bike lanes, parks, lakes, and so on.

Since 2008, the feature has let the company crowdsource an incredible amount of information, detailing remote locations such as North Korea and collecting granular data for maps of major cities.

But after the attention generated by the urinating droid, Google decided to axe its auto-approval feature for the time being.

Currently, users who first make a number of quality, factual edits that are manually approved are eventually granted auto-approval status.

“It is becoming clear that fixing some of this is actually going to take longer than a few days,”  Kanakarajan wrote. “As you can imagine, turning automated and user moderation off has the direct implication of very large backlogs of edits requiring manual review.”

The team has not put a timetable on when the editing feature will be turned back on, or exactly what changes will be made.

So for those trusted users, you have until midnight to roll out those pranks you’ve been saving.

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