Google shares its security secrets

Google shares its security secrets

Company outlines practices and offers tips

Google is offering security professionals a look into its security systems.

Scott Petry, director of Google's Enterprise and founder of security firm Postini, explained to attendees at the RSA conference how the company handles constant pressure and scrutiny from attackers.

"Google is a very very high-value target," Petry noted.

"If you have bad intentions and want to get a reputation, hacking Google is the best way to get credibility on the streets."

In order to keep its products safe, Google has adopted a philosophy of 'security as a cultural value'. The programme includes mandatory security training for developers, a set of in-house security libraries, and code reviews both by Google developers and outside security researchers.

"The most important thing that our security team does is educate," Petry explained.

"Educating people is the most important thing a security professional can do. "

Petry contended that in an age where both users and companies are increasingly relying on outside services and applications, it is becoming nearly impossible to fully lock-down a company.

"IT is largely fighting yesterday's battle," he said, in reference to the policy of trying to restrict all user access.

"Start saying okay, if these things are going to happen, do an assessment to try and bound the risk."

Petry noted that in addition to educating its employees, the company also implements software 'guard rails', which warn users when potentially risky actions are taken and later logs them for administrators to archive.

For software developers, Petry also suggested taking a 'neighbourhood watch', approach to vulnerability disclosure. For Google, this means sharing more information with researchers and trusting them to do the right thing with their discoveries.

"If you find a vulnerability, we ask that you share it with us. If you share it with us, we will respond to you with a time we will fix that hole," explained Petry.

"If we do so, that is our responsible response, please don't disclose [the vulnerability]."

That philosophy, combined with a policy of crediting all researchers who report flaws, has been very successful for Google, said Petry.