When Google was first establishing itself, it had a motto: Don’t be evil. Those words even gave rise to a manifesto, as part of its IPO filing. More than a decade letter, a handful of software engineers seems to be taking those words to heart. They are refusing to work on a project focused on air gap security technology, which could help the company win military contracts.
“Put simply, it (air gap) physically separates computers from others on a network. So rather than store data from multiple companies on a single server or system, as the commercial cloud providers typically do, a company or agency can place its data and computing processes in isolation on a single piece of hardware,” writes Mark Bergen of Bloomberg. This allows data to be immediately located or destroyed, as needed.
In reality, however, just because a system is air-gapped, it is not inherently secure. Wired reported in February about a hacker who specifically focuses on how to exfiltrate data from air gap computers.
But without air gap technology, Google is in a weaker position to get government business. It needs to have a high enough fedRAMP designation to securely manage sensitive or classified information. Currently, its designation–just earned in March–is “Moderate,” while its competitors have “High” certification.
While Google believes in and pitches its cloud security, air gap security would likely help the company earn a higher designation, giving it a more competitive stance in bids for government contract work.
As Bloomberg’s Beren reports, “While experts debate the technology’s merits, it does give customers ‘psychological’ comfort, according to Jim Reavis, who runs Cloud Security Alliance, an industry group. ‘They’re used to having their own computer that they look at, their own blinking light,’ he says. ‘I do question whether or not that’s useful security.’”
To keep pace with competitors in the world of defense contract work, Google will need to find a way to bridge the effects of its solutions with the ethical concerns of its employees.
Get the full story at Bloomberg.