Google is a big news-maker. Lately, it has been an especially interesting source of privacy and security news.
In recent months, we have seen some interesting security-related turns of events arise at Google. Because this should not be an all-Google, all-the-time gossip column, not all Google-related security and privacy news has been reported here, but that does not mean that interesting events have not been afoot. Among those reported here are:
- Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, disparaged the importance of privacy.
- Google came up with a free DNS service — which may be another way to track us.
- China invaded Google.
- Google demonstrated its disdain for privacy with Buzz defaults.
Since then, more events have come to pass that add some interesting spin to our evolving vision of the search giant:
- Eric Schmidt proved he is a hypocrite when it comes to privacy. While he offers advice that Google users simply shouldn't do things they don't want other people to know about, he uses the full force of his fortune and legal representation to bully his mistress into shutting down her Weblog when she makes oblique (and generally flattering) references to him.
- GMail added "suspicious activity" notifications. Depending on login locations and other information, you may receive a warning of suspicious activity on your GMail account when you log in. The Google Online Security Blog tells us how it works.
- Google offered skipfish to the world. Skipfish is an automated active Web application security reconnaissance tool that can be used to test the security of your Web development projects. It has been released under the terms of the Apache License, a copyfree open source license — exactly the sort of license security tools should use.
- Moxie Marlinspike offered a Google-specific proxy service. The point, of course, is to provide a way for people to use Google's services without giving Google more information it can use to track you. The service is called GoogleSharing, and a Firefox extension that automatically provides proxy protection from Google is available to the public.
- Nobody targeted Google Chrome at this year's Pwn2Own. Meanwhile, IE8 and Firefox on MS Windows 7, and Safari on the iPhone, were targeted and cracked wide open quite quickly.
- Google agreed to censor a racist site in Australia. In some respects, this policy decision seems to contradict Google's new policies regarding censorship in China.
- Google fixed the most publicly lamented privacy problems with Buzz. Sadly, Google seems to have done so only because a bunch of people complained about the original policy, and not because its decision-makers agree there is a privacy issue at stake. Still, this puts Buzz solidly ahead of Facebook in the privacy arena.
- NSA teamed up with Google in a "cyberattack probe". This proves, once again, that major corporations are more than willing to tackle difficult security issues (when their own security is at stake) and privacy violation stories can be big news (when buzzwords like "cyberattack" are in the headlines).
Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.