Google restricts Internet access for some employees for security

  • Google is recruiting employees for a pilot program to work without access to the Internet.
  • The search giant, which is undergoing a company-wide rollout of AI tools, says its employees are a frequent target of attacks.
  • The company originally selected 2,500 employees to participate but then opened the door to volunteers. Selected employees will also be allowed to opt out.

A man walks through the Google offices on January 25, 2023 in New York City.

Leonardo Munoz | Corbis News | Getty Images

On Wednesday, Google began a new pilot program in which some employees will be restricted to desktop computers without the Internet, CNBC has learned.

The company originally selected more than 2,500 employees to participate, but after receiving feedback, the company revised the pilot to allow employees to opt out, in addition to opening it up to volunteers. The company will disable Internet access on selected desktop computers, except for internal web-based tools and Google-owned websites such as Google Drive and Gmail. The company stated in the materials that some workers who need the Internet to do their work will be given exceptions.

In addition, some employees will not have root access, which means they will not be able to run administrative commands or do things like install software.

Google runs the software to reduce the risk of cyberattacks, according to internal materials. An internal description seen by CNBC stated that “Google employees are frequent targets of attacks.” The description added that if a Google employee’s device is hacked, attackers may gain access to user data and infrastructure code, which could lead to a major incident and undermine user trust.

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The description stated that turning off most Internet access ensures that attackers cannot remotely run arbitrary code or easily extract data.

The program comes as companies face increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Last week, Microsoft said Chinese intelligence hacked into the company’s email accounts belonging to two dozen government agencies, including the State Department, in the United States and Western Europe in a “significant” breach.. Google was stalking US government contracts since the launch of the public sector division last year.

It also comes as Google, which is preparing to roll out various company-wide AI tools, is trying to beef up its security. In recent months, the company has also struggled to contain leaks.

“Ensuring the safety of our products and our users is one of our top priorities,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are routinely exploring ways to harden our internal systems against malicious attacks.”

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