Google Engineers Speak Out Against NSA Surveillance, And Drop The F-Bomb While Doing So

Google cloud snowden slideNSA/WaPoA slide from the NSA leaked by Edwards Snowden showing how Google was hacked by the NSA.

Two Google engineers are so outraged at the way the
NSA has tapped into Google’s datato see messages flowing between its users they’ve spoken out publicly, on Google+, of course.

And they’re using unusually forceful language to do it, including the F-bomb.

Brandon Downey, a network security engineer at Google, got the ball rolling when he read this article in the Washington Post. It details how the NSA uses both legal warrants and non-warrant secret intercepts to read Google’s data. The NSA has basically broken into Google without legal permission and is reading everything, the article basically says. “The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies,” the Post reports.

The story is accompanied by a slide showing a hand-drawn diagram of how the NSA hacked Google, on which an NSA employee has drawn a smiley face at the covert point of entry.

This was Downey’s response:

Fuck these guys.

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.

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.

But even though we suspected this was happening, it still makes me terribly sad. It makes me sad because I believe in America.

It’s unusual to hear individual Google employees express their opinions so overtly like this.

But then Downey was joined by a British colleague, Mike Hearn, a security tech at Google, who is equally outraged at the way the NSA uses its British equivalent, GCHQ, to do basically the same thing:

I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it’s no different – GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA.

We designed this system to keep criminals out . There’s no ambiguity here. The warrant system with sceptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we’ve got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason .

Unfortunately 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. 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.

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

Read their rants in full here and here.

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