'----- you,' Google engineers tell America's NSA

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    Ref: '----- you,' Google engineers tell America's NSA

    TNN | Nov 6, 2013, 09.21 PM IST

    NEW DELHI: The recent NSA leaks based on the documents provided by Edward Snowden, an ex-contractor for the American spy agency, have angered Google engineers. The leaks show that NSA and GCHQ, which is the British spy agency, tapped into the cables that linked Google and Yahoo data centres outside the US and scooped up data flowing through them.

    Hearn and Brandon Downey, who are engineers at Google, have written on their Google+ page that tactics used by NSA and GCHQ make them very angry. "----- these guys," wrote Downey, who is a network security engineer. Hearn, who works on user account security, added Wednesday, "I now join (Downey) in issuing a giant ----- You to the (NSA and GCHQ) people."

    Both engineers made it clear that this was their personal opinion and not those of their employer.

    When the news reports based on the first NSA leaks appeared, hinting that Google was providing data to American spies, Google CEO Larry Page wrote a blog post titled, "What the ...?"

    Earlier Washington Post, which first reported about NSA and GCHQ tapping internal server links used by Google and Yahoo, revealed that when it showed Google a drawing that NSA workers had made to explain how they were tapping into data centres, the engineers had "exploded in profanity".

    Google and most other technology companies believed that connections between their own data centres were private and hence they had no need to encrypt the information flowing through these links. However, the information leaked by Snowden has shown that it is not correct.

    "Thank you Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most interesting revelation all summer," wrote Hearn.

    On Tuesday, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt called NSA spying on data centres "outrageous". He said that was probably illegal.

    For Google engineers, it is a breach of trust.

    I've even seen oppressive governments use state sponsored hacking to target dissidents. But even though we suspected this was happening, it still makes me terribly sad. It makes me sad because I believe in America," wrote Downey. "But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google... 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.

    "The US has to be better than this; but I guess in the interim, that security job is looking a lot more like a Sisyphus thing than ever," he added.

    Google has also moved fast to plug in the loopholes. Hearn said that spying revealed the laws that safeguarded privacy were broken and it was time technology provided solutions.

    "We live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process," wrote Hearn. "In the absence of working law enforcement, we therefore do what internet engineers have always done - build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined."

    Recently Google had announced that it would not only encrypt the data that it handles when a user connects to its servers but also the data that flows between its data centres on private network.

    Yahoo, however, is yet to clarify if it has also adopted similar measures.

    For companies like Google and Yahoo, privacy is very important because they deal in user generated content. If users stop trusting Google, its business will be significantly affected. Almost all Google services and products, including Android, ChromeBook, Gmail and upcoming devices like Google Glass, make heavy use of cloud storage and user-generated content.

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