Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images
Zachary Harris didn’t think he was cut out for the job, but when Google emailed him an offer he figured he’d give it a whack anyway.Or a hack, rather.
Kim Zetter of Wired reports that a strange email hit Harris’s inbox asking if he was interested in a job with Google. “You obviously have a passion for Linux and programming,” the e-mail from the Google recruiter read. “I wanted to see if you are open to confidentially exploring opportunities with Google?”
Harris knew Google was renowned for throwing curve ball tests at prospective employees, so he was intrigued.
So he wondered if the e-mail might have been spoofed – something sent from a scammer to appear to come from the search giant. But when Harris examined the e-mail’s header information, it all seemed legitimate.
The first thing Harris noticed, though, was that the cryptographic key meant to verify the email wasn’t using encryption up to standards.
As Elise Ackerman of Forbes writes:
[Google] wasn’t using a standard 1,024-bit key, which is the digital equivalent of a kryptonite U-lock for your bike. It was using a 512-bit key, which is like buying your bike lock for $10 at Walmart.
Still thinking it was part of a test, Harris cracked the key. Then he sent an email to Google CEO Larry Page, pretending to be Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder.
Here’s the email he sent, via Wired:
Here’s an interesting idea still being developed in its infancy:
or, if the above gives you trouble try this instead:
I think we should look into whether Google could get involved with this guy in some way. What do you think?
Then he made sure the site, his own, led back to his personal email.
But the really mindblowing part is when his personal site was bombed with traffic from Google. Instead of an invite to a real job interview, Google quietly changed their cryptographic key to 2048 bits.
That’s when he knew it was no joke. Google had really sent him an email with an astoundingly sub standard encryption.
“I love factoring numbers,” Harris told Wired. “So I thought this was fun. I really wanted to solve their puzzle and prove I could do it.”
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