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Anshul Nigham
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Anshul Nigham

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It’s the perfect time of year for a movie night on the couch. Enjoy one on us ... popcorn not available in digital form.

Available for a limited time in: Canada: http://goo.gl/T022qD
France: http://goo.gl/cTAioo
Germany and Austria: http://goo.gl/W13mhv
Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and the United States: http://goo.gl/woMqrF
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The "5 million passwords" story is way overblown. Quick summary:

- The list was not taken from google, but other sites who use email address as logins (so if you used a unique password for gmail, you're fine).
- Less than 2% of the passwords would have worked. Affected accounts have been reset/notified and none of the passwords will currently work

Security tips for GMail / Google accounts in general
- Use a strong, unique password
- Keep recovery options (backup phone, email address) up to date at https://accounts.google.com/UpdateAccountRecoveryOptions
- Add 2FA

Other security options: http://g.co/accountcheckup
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We had some extra fun at the Google+ offices in Mountain View yesterday -- a dumpster caught fire. The fire department showed up and the blaze was quickly out, but in the process we discovered that the entire team is, in fact, still five years old, and that people get really excited to watch a fire and a ladder truck and everything.

Sometimes it's good to still be five.
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I say don't go beyond 3
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The packet capture shown in these new NSA slides shows internal database replication traffic for the anti-hacking system I worked on for over two years. Specifically, it shows a database recording a user login as part of this system:

http://googleblog.blogspot.ch/2013/02/an-update-on-our-war-against-account.html

Recently +Brandon Downey, a colleague of mine on the Google security team, said (after the usual disclaimers about being personal opinions and not speaking for the firm which I repeat here) - "fuck these guys":

https://plus.google.com/108799184931623330498/posts/SfYy8xbDWGG

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 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.

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.
New documents reveal exactly how the Post was able to determine that the NSA was peeking inside the Google and Yahoo's cloud network.
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So, you all (hopefully) saw my photos yesterday; if you didn't, you may have seen the media coverage about my employer, Google Australia, installing 2 monorail carriages in our new office space yesterday (e.g. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/google-installs-monorail-carriages-in-its-office-20131009-2v7fl.html)

Now! For those of you who don't know, confession (and story!) time: this was my fault.

At Google, we have (like most large companies do) an internal ticketing system for keeping track of jobs for our building management team ('Facilities', or 'REWS'). This system is usually populated with requests like, you know, 'the door on level X isn't working properly' or 'the pinball machine isn't working' or 'you know what would be awesome? An electric keyboard. We don't have one, can you buy us one please?' or whatever (all real, recent examples, which all got 'fixed').

Sometimes, though, this ticket system is abused by idiots* trying to be funny.

One such example of this was at the start of this year, when one particular idiot† submitted a ticket into this system pointing out that the NSW and Sydney governments had finally announced their long-anticipated plan to remove and scrap Sydney's defunct, expensive-but-useless monorail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Monorail — a classic 'white elephant'). At the time, Google Australia had spread from one office building in Pyrmont to two, and there were rumours of a third coming soon, so this idiot suggested that maybe Google should buy the monorail and install it between the three buildings in a loop, because we're lazy and besides how cool would it be to have a monorail.

Everyone had a chuckle at this lame joke, and then that was it, until a particularly awesome member of our Facilities team, Alecia, replied to the ticket, giving an hilarious and clever feasibility study as to why purchasing the monorail would be a bad plan (and yes, it did include the phrase "more of a Shelbyville idea"). This reply (which I wish I could share with you, but if nothing else it's filled with Google in-jokes and wouldn't make sense to you all) elevated my stupid facilities ticket into legendary status, where it did the rounds of Google and after about a week I think the whole company had seen it.

Joke dies down, everyone's happy. Until about 3 months ago.

About 3 months ago, Alecia sent me an IM saying "Are you free for a meeting now? And by meeting, I mean 'road trip'." Naturally, I was. I arrived at Alecia's desk (Alecia: "I love that I say 'road trip' and you just turn up without asking what it is."), and we head off. Eventually I ask what we're actually doing, and another colleague who was in on the plan tells me: "Monorail shopping!"

Sure enough, Alecia takes us out to a junkyard near the airport, and we all help choose which two monorail carriages we want to purchase and install as meeting rooms in One Darling Island, our new workspace in Sydney (the aforementioned rumoured third building).

Eventually, this brings us to what happened yesterday. After an months of Herculean logistics (and, I'm quite sure, horrifying expense; the SMH article linked above estimates the costs of the installation at $250,000, though I have no idea if that's accurate), yesterday our 2 monorail carriages were brought to the office, and very carefully (I heard tell that the '20cm of clearance' figure in the SMH article was actually an OVER-estimate) lifted into place, where they will become 3 meeting rooms (each carriage will be its own room, and then there will be another casual meeting area at the back)‡. HOW COOL IS THAT??!?

Anyway, check out the linked article - the timelapse footage isn't brilliant, but it will give you an idea of the logistics involved (we actually took some footage of our own, hopefully I can share that with you soon).

So: next time I tell you (as I regularly do) that working at Google is like working at Wonka's Chocolate Factory: remember, I once made a stupid joke about buying a monorail, and MY COMPANY DID IT FOR ME. I bet not many of you can say that§.


* generally, me.
† specifically, me.
‡ you, all being nerds, will be delighted to know that the meeting rooms are to be named "Brockway", "Ogdenville", and "North Haverbrook".
§ my guess: zero.
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That is freaking awesome!
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Gateway to history...
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+Thaths Delhi, Isa Khan's tomb I think, right next to Humayun's tomb.
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Sunset, Grand Canyon, AZ
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Great view
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Announcing Sandstorm Personal Cloud Platform

http://sandstorm.io/

This is what I've been working towards ever since leaving Google:  Creating a platform that makes it really easy for end users to run their own personal web app servers, on which they can install apps through an "app-store-like" interface.  Every app runs in an isolated secure sandbox, so you can install apps from anyone without  worrying about malware taking down your whole server.  It's a native-code sandbox, so it's easy to port in existing Linux-based servers.  Apps will be able to talk to each other through Cap'n Proto RPC interfaces.

It's all open source.  Take a look, and start developing apps!
The Web is Broken. When you use a web app today, you usually connect to its developers' servers. This is backwards, and leaves them in control. Sandstorm makes it easy to run web apps on your own server. Bring their apps to your data, and make sure they don't do anything you don't like.
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This is the big story in tech today: 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-infiltrates-links-to-yahoo-google-data-centers-worldwide-snowden-documents-say/2013/10/30/e51d661e-4166-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story.html 

*

I'm just going to post my thoughts on this. Standard disclaimer: They are my own thoughts, and not those of my employer.

*
Fuck 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. 

Not in that flag-waving bullshit we've-got-our-big-trucks-and-bigger-tanks sort of way, but in the way that you can looked a good friend who has a lot of flaws, but every time you meet him, you think, "That guy still has some good ideas going on".

But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google -- one of the greatest things to arise from the internet -- seeing this, well, it's just a little like coming home from War with Sauron, destroying the One Ring, only to discover the NSA is on the front porch of the Shire chopping down the Party Tree and outsourcing all the hobbit farmers with half-orcs and whips. 

The US has to be better than this; but I guess in the interim, that security job is looking a lot more like a Sisyphus thing than ever. 

*

Also of note, this article from September may call some recent technical decisions into relief: 

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-06/business/41831756_1_encryption-data-centers-intelligence-agencies

#nsa   #surveillancestate  
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Dear Google users— You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CE...
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This is awesome! 1 TB of free space, and the new layout on Flickr is gorgeous. Here's what my current public photostream looks like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anshul

http://blog.flickr.net/en/2013/05/20/a-better-brighter-flickr/
In the beginning, Flickr innovated the way people share and discover photos. Today, we are shifting the photo-sharing landscape again. We're releasing a Flickr that's more spectacular, much bigger, and one you can take anywhere. Biggr. A free terabyte of space. At Flickr, we believe you should ...
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Fang Hui's profile photoDeepa Aravindan's profile photoThaths's profile photoAnshul Nigham's profile photo
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+Thaths T. In a way she got the Google to Yahoo... this move reminds me of the 1GB GMail space when it first launched.
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