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Google scrambles to block backdoors

Plans to add crypto to data centre traffic

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The ongoing revelations about NSA snoopery have prompted The Chocolate Factory to accelerate its effort to encrypt user data at every possible point.

Mountain View had already announced that its Google Cloud Storage platform was adding server-side encryption to reassure users. User data uploaded to the service is now being encrypted using AES-128 in RAM before being written to disk.

Now, according to the Washington Post, Google is also planning to encrypt data travelling between all of its data centres. The company's security engineering VP Eric Grosse described encryption as “an arms race” and told the newspaper government agencies are “among the most skilled players in this game”.

The company told the Washington Post the current program is an acceleration of an effort first approved in 2012.

Details are sketchy about the extent of the latest effort: while the Washington Post leads its story saying that Google will encrypt “the torrents of information that flow among its data centres around the world” (which would indicate encryption at the network edge, designed to thwart covert taps on fibre links), it later told the outlet that encryption would be “end-to-end”, covering both the links and the data held within its data centres.

Its earlier Google Cloud Storage work will, however, have given Google a good idea of both the computational and performance requirements of implementing an “encrypt everything, everywhere” strategy.

Google would still be bound to comply with legal requests for data, backed by a court order or warrant. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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