Google To Get A Lesson in Security, From the Pros

Google To Get A Lesson in Security, From the Pros

Summary: Having just read that Google is taking up residence at Moffett Field, a storied air base in Mountain View that is home to NASA's Ames Research Center, among others, I realized there's a great opportunity for Google to learn a little about high end security, at least the kind that secures a perimeter, fends off unwarranted access, and punishes miscreants with true Old Testament fervor.

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TOPICS: Google, Security
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Having just read that Google is taking up residence at Moffett Field, a storied air base in Mountain View that is home to NASA's Ames Research Center, among others, I realized there's a great opportunity for Google to learn a little about high end security, at least the kind that secures a perimeter, fends off unwarranted access, and punishes miscreants with true Old Testament fervor. With this comes the hope that Google will also learn that security must be taken seriously, and in the process become a little serious about changing its terms of service for its online apps to bring them in accord with accepted corporate security practice.

And therein lies a story. I had the pleasure of visiting Moffet recently to get a briefing from a most interesting little company, Apprion, and, having come in the wrong entrance (i.e. not the one on my Yahoo maps printout), I found myself wandering around somewhat aimlessly, looking for street signs and other directional indicators that Moffett seems to be too cheap, or too clever, to post. Next thing I know, lights were flashing in my rear view mirror and I was being pulled over by a cop, though not just any cop, this was a Federal police officer, as we were on Federal govmint property. Apparently, security is so tight that a relatively well-dressed, if poorly coifed, man in a relatively harmless mini-van, is jail bait if he dares to get lost at Moffett.

The encounter was pleasant enough -- a misspent youth taught me to always be civil to someone with a badge -- and I was let off with a warning. The crime -- some Federal version of reckless driving that is a catch-all misdemeanor used to clear the roads of meandering daddy vans -- was a little made up, but it was only a warning.

What my hosts at Apprion told me when I relayed the story was that a real ticket on Federal property is a major hassle, for one important reason: there's no appeal process. Despite constitutional guarantees of due process that our Founding Fathers ensconced in our legal system, if you get a ticket at Moffet, there's no traffic school, no groveling in front of a judge, no opportunity to explain why your pants were on fire and you had to run that red light at 70 miles per hour. Effectively, that made the cop who pulled me over my judge and possible executioner, which meant I felt especially lucky that I had washed the van that morning and cleared out the debris from a weekend spent hauling the kids around.

I later found out the real kicker: get a couple tickets from the Feds, and they can ban you from the property, or at least from driving on to the property. Wow: talk about crime and punishment. I was impressed, and a little awed at the lack of redemptive possibility that we Americans are so used to, particularly when it comes to a mere speeding ticket or two.

So, there's a couple morals to this story. As the Gang from GOOG starts getting comfy in their new digs, it will be interesting to see how this tough love security model rubs off on them. Maybe they'll see what no-nonsense security is all about, what a real security team means when they talk about enforcement, and what it does to the innocent (me, I swear!) when they're faced with the prospect of true damnation. Then, maybe, Google will try to tighten things up a little so that their users could rest assured that their content isn't going to end up in a Google marketing campaign, or worse, and just maybe Google will realize that free to the user doesn't have to mean free for Google to use as it sees fit. Ahhh, one can always dream.

The other moral to the story? Next time I'll use Google Maps. I'm pretty confident they'll have the Moffett map thing nailed down before my next visit. Because, right now, searching for Apprion's address in Google Maps yields the following result:

We were not able to locate the address: NASA AMES Research Park, Bldg 19, Moffett Field, CA 94035

I imagine they're planning on fixing that problem right away.

Topics: Google, Security

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7 comments
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  • awesome writing

    Had a blast reading the article - really well written!
    Alex Gerulaitis
    • Thought it was good also

      Interesting take. I think we're all a little awed in the face of authority larger than our own, even as adults. More so if it is framed effectively and administered fairly.

      We don't always have to be at the center of our own defined universes.
      klumper
  • What a pointless article.

    Are you mental?

    Every other company should be doing what Google does when it comes to security. Google is a company that got it right and continues to get it right. You sit on your high horse and complain about how Google is going to handle security in this new location. What the hell does this have to do with anything tech related? I would very much like to know what you TECHNICAL qualifications are. I am guessing that you are a 'process' person. Meaning that you write policies and proceedures for moving desks etc. With a title of 'Google To Get A Lesson in Security, From the Pros' how do you think that people will react? And did you stop to think that maybe, maybe it was a good thing NOT to have a security site located on an internet map search? Maybe you should write a process document about how NOT to write a crap article.
    RobMCH
    • Misleading Title.

      I do agree with Rob that the title of the article is extremely mis-leading. It is a humorous article pretending to be a serious one (in the title). But, once you realize that the article is not meant to be taken seriously, it provides a little light-hearted downtime that, I think, we all need.

      I am, in a way, one of those "process" people that Rob is so disgusted with (I am a college English teacher and, among other things, I teach writing the process essay). My knowledge of tech is too limited to say that it is extremely limited. Basically I see the tech world in 2 ways -- Mac (user-friendly, intuitive, and GUI-based, and very forgiving of errors) and non-Mac (grab-you-by-the-balls-and-slice-your-throat for the slightest error). Google, it seems to me, is a Mac, while people who are obsessively focused on security, like Microsoft, are clearly non-Mac.

      I hope Google always remains a Mac.
      Anpadh
    • What a pointless talkback

      I'd have your comment deleted for crossing the boundaries of civility, but it's so funny to see how much you've missed the point of the post that I thought I'd leave it in place. Thanks for the laugh.
      josh@...
  • Google gets to explain stuff to the military

    This is according to the book for them.
    BALTHOR
  • No Google Maps on military bases

    Actually, you won't be able to get maps of military bases using Google or other services. The DoD has banned them from entering military bases with their GPS/Picture trucks, and told them to take base pictures and such off their sites. The information could possibly give terrorists information they could use to plan strikes at us. As a contractor on a military base, I would recommend that you ask for directions from security when you get to the security gate.
    seawalker999