In a world of seemingly endless cybertheft, fear and terror, history will perennially hold record of July 15, 2014, a day in which we bear witness to the formation of the first privatized internet police force.
Headed up by Google in what they have termed ‘Project Zero’, the sole purpose of this task force is the pursuit and eradication of any and all online threats, both internally and externally. As eluded to by Chris Evans, a member of the Project Zero team, sophisticated cybercriminals are a very real threat, seeking out very real security vulnerabilities.
“You should be able to use the web without fear that a criminal or state-sponsored actor is exploiting software bugs to infect your computer, steal secrets or monitor your communications,” Chris Evans, a member of Google’s security research team said in a company blog post. “Yet in sophisticated attacks, we see the use of ’zero-day’ vulnerabilities to target, for example, human rights activists or to conduct industrial espionage.”
Zero-day refers to attacks on susceptibilities within software applications, previously unbeknown to their administrators. An example of these cyber-maladies came earlier this year, in the form of ‘heartbleed’, a bug that rendered myriads of sensitive data user data vulnerable to hackers. It is malignance like this, along with the recent revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that incited Google to make internet-wide war on cyberterrorism, and enact the Project Zero movement.
“We’re not placing any particular bounds on this project and will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people, paying careful attention to the techniques, targets and motivations of attackers,” explains Evans.
As well as bolstering their own encryption systems to better bulwark against potential breach, Google is aiding any and all software vendors, both by identifying and pacifying possible threats to their networks. In fact, just last week Google assisted Apple in identifying 21 vulnerabilities, resulting in subsequent Mac OS X 10.9.4 and iOS 7.1.2 software updates, nine of which were personally diagnosed by Ian Beer of Google’s Project Zero.
So who is Ian Beer? Known as a mild mannered British researcher, Ian is one of the many limbs making up Google’s holistic and unstoppable cybersecurity force. Also on the team is Tavis Ormandy, British researcher, Ben Hawkes, and receiving an internship position is George Hotz, better known as the man responsible for cracking the iPhone in 2007, and is successfully reverse engineering the Sony PS3.
As the old axiom goes, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’, and with Google now controlling a team of hackers the likes of which are second to none, it will be left to them to demonstrate that responsibility, and hopefully invalidate other axioms like ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
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