Google security techs on NSA hackers: “Fuck these guys”

Google security analysts Michael Hearn of Zurich (left) and Brandon Downey of Mountain View, California (right). [Photos: Google Plus / Twitter]
Google security technicians Michael Hearn of Zurich (left) and Brandon Downey of Mountain View, California (right). [Photos: Google Plus / Twitter]
Two Google security technicians had some choice words for the National Security Administration after recent newspaper reports revealed the American spy agency circumvented security techniques both had worked on while at Google.

According to his website, Michael Hearn has spent the last three years of his career working on “account security and anti-spam systems” for various Google products. Among other things, Hearn developed technology that was designed to prevent hackers from decrypting data traffic sent between Google’s servers.

A recent story published by the Washington Post newspaper showed evidence that the Washington-based NSA was able to circumvent the technology Hearn says was designed to prevent people from accessing information without authorization.

This slide, from a PowerPoint presentation leaked by Edward Snowden, shows how the NSA was able to circumvent security protocols in accessing traffic between Google’s data centers. [Photo: The Washington Post]
“The packet capture shown in these new NSA slides show internal database replication traffic for the anti-hacking system I worked on for over two years,” Hearn wrote in a post on Monday. “We designed this system to keep criminals out.”

Hearn’s comment echoes those of his Google colleague Brandon Downey, who slammed the same report in a Google Plus post on October 30.

“Fuck these guys,” Downey wrote of the NSA. “I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life trying to keep Google’s users safe and secure from the many diverse threats Google faces…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.”

Both Hearn and Downey learned that the NSA was able to circumvent their work at Google from a series of articles published by the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, who received thousands of documents from Edward Snowden, a former government contractor now living in Moscow. Politicians and pundits have demonized Snowden over the past few months, some even going so far as to call Snowden a traitor while upholding the NSA and its various cyber spying programs as guardians of America’s safety and security.

The men at Google, however, see Snowden as a kind of hero.

“I don’t think, at this point, that you could argue that his revelations weren’t newsworthy or even that his intentions (weren’t) good,” Downey wrote. “As far as I’m concerned, that means Snowden is a hero and deserves a pardon.”

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

Hearn and Downey prefaced their comments by saying their posts reflected their own opinions and not those of their employer. Their comments came days after Google CEO Eric Schmidt condemned the NSA following reports the spy agency infiltrated the search giant’s services.

“It’s really outrageous that the NSA was looking between the Google data centers, if that’s true,” Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal newspaper. “The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people’s privacy, it’s not OK.”

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