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BLOG: Google security team drops F-bombs on NSA for internal Google cloud data surveillance

Darlene Storm | Nov. 7, 2013
The two Google security team members were reacting to a leaked NSA presentation by The Washington Post.

Imagine working in security for Google and spending years of your life trying to keep users safe and secure, only to discover the NSA has been tapping into Google data centres, tapping into Google's internal network and hoovering hundreds of millions of user records every day. How might you feel? Two Google Security team members were so furious and frustrated that they dropped F-bombs on the NSA. Please note that neither of the gentlemen were speaking on behalf of Google when they said f**k the NSA!

On Google+, Google network security engineer Brandon Downey and his security team co-worker Mike Hearn - who also works on the Bitcoin virtual currency system - were reacting to a leaked NSA presentation on "Google Cloud Exploitation;" it showed how the NSA secretly breaks "into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world." The Washington Post, reporting on documents obtained from Edward Snowden, explained that by tapping those links, the NSA can "collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans." The NSA and the British GCHQ's "principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR."

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA's acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency's headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records - including "metadata," which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

Brandon Downey explained that's he spent the last decade trying to keep users secure; "I've seen armies of machines DOS-ing Google. I've seen worms DOS'ing Google to find vulnerabilities in other people's software. I've seen criminal gangs figure out malware. I've seen spyware masquerading as toolbars so thick it breaks computers because it interferes with the other spyware. I've even seen oppressive governments use state sponsored hacking to target dissidents."

After learning that the NSA has no scruples about spying on Americans, or tapping into Google's internal networks, Downey said, "F**k these guys." He added, "Even though we suspected this was happening, it still makes me terribly sad. It makes me sad because I believe in America." Downey added:

But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google -- one of the greatest things to arise from the internet -- seeing this, well, it's just a little like coming home from War with Sauron, destroying the One Ring, only to discover the NSA is on the front porch of the Shire chopping down the Party Tree and outsourcing all the hobbit farmers with half-orcs and whips.  


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