Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Google engineers on NSA and GCHQ surveillance: "F*** these guys"

"We designed this system to keep criminals out. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason"

One of the NSA slides that allegedly caused Google's engineers to 'explode in profanity'
One of the NSA slides that allegedly caused Google's engineers to 'explode in profanity'

Two Google engineers, Brandon Downey and Mike Hearn, who worked on search engine giant's security systems have lashed out at the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's GCHQ, accusing the organisations of subverting the law.

It follows the revelations in the Washington Post that, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA allegedly broke into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.

The newspaper said that two engineers with close ties to Google 'exploded in profanity' when they saw a slide that described the data interception. The slide came complete with a smiley face.

Downey, a security engineer who says he helped design anti-hacking software, said on his personal Google+ page: "F*** these guys. I've spent the last ten 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."

Hearn, one of Downey's colleagues, echoed the sentiments writing: "I now join him in issuing a giant F*** 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 skeptical 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."

Both Downey and Hearn made it clear that they were not speaking on behalf of Google. Google declined to comment on the postings.

On Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the recent reports that the NSA was hacking into Google and Yahoo data centers, is "outrageous."

Mr Schmidt  said: "There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don’t have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them."

In September Google said it was encrypting links between its data centres, halting broad surveillance of its inner workings by the joint National Security Agency-GCHQ program known as MUSCULAR.

In a statement, the NSA said it is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

Bulk collection techniques employed in the MUSCULAR program, allegedly run by GCHQ and fed to the NSA, is illegal in the United States. Thus, GCHQ allegedly heads the operation.

Spymasters face televised grilling 

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