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Google Network Operating Systems

Google's Plan To Kill the Corporate Network 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-corporate-laptop-is-being-replaced-with-an-abacus dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "Google has revealed details on its Beyond Corp project to scrap the notion of a corporate network and move to a zero-trust model. The company perhaps unsurprisingly considers the traditional notion of perimeter defense and its respective gadgetry as a dead duck, and has moved to authenticate and authorize its 42,000 staff so they can access Google HQ from anywhere (video). Google also revealed it was perhaps the biggest Apple shop in the world, with 43,000 devices deployed and staff only allowed to use Windows with a supporting business case."
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Google's Plan To Kill the Corporate Network

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  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721)

    Wow, Google has invented the VPN! What great innovators.

    • "Firewalls don't help"

      LOL! You could make the case that Firewalls aren't perfect security solutions but god damn.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:58PM (#45654531)

        What they're saying is that the idea of border security is a bad model. One compromised system on the inside and you're pretty much done. IDS and DPI are good ideas but they aren't effective enough. Breaking in to any corporate network is as easy as spamming it's users with social-engineering-laden email. Get them to click on a link and you own their soft, squishy, zero-day-vulnerable desktops. Keylog and steal their credentials and you've got a jumping off point to worm in to the rest of their network. It's that easy.

        What they're saying is once you move to a trust-nothing model.. Why bother investing in a huge corp network when you can't trust it anyway? When you don't have big corp network what's, the advantages of running your own services over purchasing them from someone else? Like Google?

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chas (5144) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:34PM (#45654973) Homepage Journal

          Because we're dealing with zero trust.

          That ALSO means I don't necessarily trust a 3rd party host either.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

          by binarylarry (1338699) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @06:18PM (#45655501)

          But it's not a bad idea, it's just dumb to rely solely on it.

          I can just imagine the military "Fuck the perimeter, if the enemy gets inside the base it's going to be all knives and hand to hand combat anyway. Sell the guns boys, we're all getting HUGE KNIVES!"

          • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

            by WaffleMonster (969671) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @07:23PM (#45655957)

            I can just imagine the military "Fuck the perimeter, if the enemy gets inside the base it's going to be all knives and hand to hand combat anyway. Sell the guns boys, we're all getting HUGE KNIVES!"

            RL military analogies often map poorly to network security space yet it rarely prevents people from making them anyway.

          • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

            by icebike (68054) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:29PM (#45656417)

            I don't think you can compare it to a physical situation.

            If you had secure operating systems, and encrypted data flows, and weren't listening on a bazillion ports, it would be just as easy to secure the network by securing individual computers as it would to secure the perimeter.

            The problem is security is a bolted on afterthought for some operating systems (Windows), printers, storage devices, and software applications.
            If we could get past that, we could stop building walls.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @07:43PM (#45656127)

          As the senior admin for such an outsourced network, I can tell you what will happen about 2 to 3 years after you migrate to an outsourced service like this.

          "We're deprecating the ODBC connection as of January 1... no worries we've got a great new API and it accepts SQL!"
          "To reduce system load and improve overall performance of your system we're limiting SQL requests to 100k rows"
          "To enhance SLQ efficiency we've written our own proprietary query language called FU-SQL it's fantastic"
          "We're aware that some of our customers are not happy with speed of FU-SQL so we've limited the number of joins you can make in a select statement to 1"
          "To reduce costs for our customers we now bill our FU-SQL module separately, if you don't use it you don't have to pay for it! If you would like the unneeded additional FU-SQL feature it will bill for $150k/year"
          "due to lack of interest FU-SQL has been discontinued, if you need mass access to your data please contact our professional service"

          At this point they start doubling the price of their service every time you sign a new contract. Then your boss will ask you why your quote for migrating the network somewhere else was "A Metric Shitton of money"

          Have fun with your outsourced network!

        • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

          by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:52PM (#45656597)

          I'm no expert in the field, but my understanding is that there are several models of network security based on real-world notions of security.

          VPN is a part of your traditional wall security, where your typical authentication and authorization happens at each level of security zone. Once you're in, you can do anything the zone permits you to do. VPN is, as stated by others, placed at the perimeter.

          BTW, full internal company-wide encryption just means putting the secure zones under a roof so no one flying overhead can see what's going on from above (e.g. big brother).

          Another model of security relies on negative feedback. There are no locks anywhere, and no one has keys, but missteps have consequences. That's the security model most modern governments employ against their citizens. The levels of surveillance, strictness of the deeds, and harshness of the punishment determine the repressiveness of the model. The level of security is proportional to the amount of monitoring (a place like prison being maximum security).

          There are other models, I'm certain, but like I said, I'm no expert. These are the two more prevalent ones out there right now.

          Zero trust is completely different. It's almost like a double-blind experiment. There's no trust anywhere. Not the users/developers, not the administrators, not the auditors, not anyone. Authentication is fundamentally a trust-building mechanism, and a zero-trust model means authentication is obsolete (remember, encryption is merely erecting a roof over everything). Anyone can get in and do all the same things. The only difference is in the domain knowledge of the actors, which differenciates those able to do more things from less things if anything at all.

          A rather dirty analogy of zero trust would be hosting an open project on Github. Anyone can go in and make modifications, but only those who know the code could make modifications that do meaningful work. And then, of the people building the code and running it, only those who who possess the ability to verify the modifications would know that they're not harmful specifically for their use cases.

          Another analogy of zero trust would be to have an open e-mail account. There's no guarantees the sender is represented by the name. Every e-mail is assumed to have been read by anyone capable of entering the system. (Changing or deleting e-mails can be universally prohibited.) Such an account would be mostly useful for communications of metadata information, i.e. where and when to meet, and trivial matters.

          I don't think Google's gone quite that far with their security model. They may have gotten rid of the VPN (or not...), but there are still SSH keys used for authentication and authorization, and users still need to log in to their machine to use it. After all, zero trust implies that even we the ultimate end users can't trust what's coming out of Google to be accurate (assuming that we could before--that's another debate for another time). And I don't think Google wants to make that impression.

          It may be that they started with a zero-trust model, and identified the areas where trust is unnecessary, which they left insecure. At the same time, they also identified where trust is absolutely necessary, as well as the level of trust that's appropriate, and put up the necessary strength of walls to secure them, as well as levels of monitoring to see who's entering different zones. That sounds far more reasonable to me, especially considering the amount of trade and other secrets Google is holding onto.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by russotto (537200) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:54PM (#45654493) Journal

      No, a VPN still depends on a perimeter defense; the VPN is an tunnel through the perimeter and once the tunnel is set up, you have full access.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:07PM (#45653959) Homepage Journal

    why use so many Apple computers when there's your own awesome Chromebook [google.com]?

    • by plover (150551) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:11PM (#45653995) Homepage Journal

      My dog eats its own poop.

      Not a ringing endorsement for the dog food metaphor.

      • by BreakBad (2955249)

        Charlie don't surf.

    • by djdanlib (732853)

      Chromebooks aren't exactly fast or high-res. Unless you buy the Pixel, but then you might as well buy a real laptop. I wouldn't stick an employee with a slow half-top and expect them to be productive.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:44PM (#45654377) Homepage

        I wouldn't stick an employee with a slow half-top and expect them to be productive.

        In my experience, a lot of companies buy whatever they can get a bulk price on and which someone in purchasing deems "good enough".

        Resulting in employees with slow machines on which they're expected to be productive.

        Hell, at an old job they bought a crap-load of new Dell boxes, and the native aspect ratio of the monitor was a non-standard thing in which a circle was drawn as an oval because the monitor was optimized for watching movies at 720p, but not for actually being a monitor (it's native aspect ratio was oblong pixels). Oh, and the machines came with 4GB of RAM, the OS they came with could only see 3GB of RAM, and it wasn't possible to install a newer OS on it because there were no drivers available.

        In short, never underestimate how crappy of a machine companies will buy for their employees if it saves them a few bucks. Because many of them do it all the time.

        • by mevets (322601) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:57PM (#45654521)

          They buy Apples to save money?

          Cue the frothing idiot tax minions....

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            In this case, it was shitty Dell machines running Windows. Shitty HP machines running Windows also become a common choice.

          • by rjstanford (69735)

            Eh, my company spent more money on macs - but most places with ~35 employees have at least one "IT staff" guy and we never bothered with one - the savings more than made up for the "idiot tax." Besides, if you're even a few minutes more productive per week not dealing with an OS issue the nicer laptop pays for itself, and if the employees get a better experience that helps retention... there's a lot more to a good decision than just the number at the bottom of the credit card receipt.

          • by iluvcapra (782887)

            They buy Apples to save money?

            They have a "you spend your own computer budget" policy, coupled with a company store, to save money.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Because Google is an engineering company. Chrome books are for home users and light business users. They are also fairly new.

      I expect Google to do more development in the browser and eventually dump Apple.

    • Uh, because a Chromebook isn't (and isn't intended to be) a general purpose computer? You might as well be asking "why do Apple employees not do their work on iPod Touches?"
    • by CTachyon (412849) <chronos@@@chronos-tachyon...net> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:09PM (#45654683) Homepage

      why use so many Apple computers when there's your own awesome Chromebook [google.com]?

      Google employee here (but I don't speak for my employer and I am basing this purely on anecdotal observation, not hard data).

      I'm only familiar with my impressions from the engineering side, so I don't know much about the sales and marketing side of things, but nearly all of the engineers use Linux desktops (unless they're developing client software, like Chrome). Laptops are a different story. As a Bay Area-wide phenomenon, software engineers sure like their Macbooks, and this place is no exception. A few of us run Linux laptops, but my impression is that Macbooks outnumber Linux laptops plus Chromebooks combined. But the internal hardware requisition site is now offering the Pixel (indeed, recommending it instead of Macbooks), so this should change with time.

      There's also the matter of hardware refresh cycles. The Pixel is not even a year old yet, and it hasn't been available for requisitions for its entire lifespan, so a good number of employees haven't yet had the chance to switch even if they want to. (Returned working laptops are refurbished and reused, so turning over the inventory will take longer than you might expect.) Also, lack of VPN or native SSH impeded the Chromebook's internal usefulness in the early days, but today hardly anything still requires VPN (it works now regardless) and the Secure Shell [google.com] app is pretty workable (set it "Open as Window" so that ^W goes to the terminal). And... well, the early Chromebooks had anemic hardware specs, which is not true of the Pixel.

  • with companies less profitable than google?
    Mac's are expensive
    most people don't own Mac's personally
    lots of people use personal computers to VPN to work
    how would it work with the files on file servers people use to get work done? like MS Access databases?

    • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:21PM (#45654117)

      Both of my daughters have work issued Macs. One is in education and the other a tech company. When you look at the cost of a computer compared to the salary (and benefits) for an employee over the life of the computer, the cost of even an "expensive" computer is a small rounding error. In addition, the cost of protecting and cleaning up Windows computers is non-trivial and the cost of a data breach can be enormous.
      This is not just a VPN, it is a VPN from a known, verified secure computer.
      ? MS Access... what a joke.

      • by synapse7 (1075571)
        I'm curious what platform google is using for servers?
      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        This is not just a VPN, it is a VPN from a known, verified secure computer.

        The only secure computer is one that has never connected to a network.

      • by lakeland (218447)

        I agree the cost of the computer is effectively a rounding error, but there are non-trivial costs in Window's favour too relating to compatibility.

        It is getting a lot better with the rising popularity of Android / iOS meaning that fewer companies target a single platform, but I still find that when I try and take just my mac that I often find I have trouble doing some small thing.

      • Let me give you a sad glimpse into my corporate world.

        Cash-strapped organization of about 1700 employees. 2009-era Dell desktops and laptops. Windows XP, Office 2003, IE 8, homerolled mainframe applications from 1970s and 1980s mixed with Access databases, homerolled mainframe feeds Oracle financial backend.

        IT has been "testing" Win 7/Office 2010 but STILL with IE 8 for over 1 year. "Should" roll it out organization wide in calendar 2014 replacing all machines with Dell laptops.

        The cost of machines is

        • by larkost (79011)

          You have this a little wrong. The cost of the computers is trivial in comparison to other things. What you are seeing is that the bean counters are focusing on reducing one specific cost (computer hardware) without taking other costs into consideration (employe productivity). Undoutably this is a case of “penny wise, pound foolish”, and is probably because no-one can write up the other costs into a spreadsheet, so the one number that is easy to define wins.

          This is what is wrong with the “i

      • by dj245 (732906)

        Both of my daughters have work issued Macs. One is in education and the other a tech company. When you look at the cost of a computer compared to the salary (and benefits) for an employee over the life of the computer, the cost of even an "expensive" computer is a small rounding error.

        And yet I have not heard of a company doling out computers with SSD drives in them. Myself and a department full of people waste 15 minutes in the morning waiting for laptops to boot up. We did the math and the $ amount of the lost productivity was staggering.

        • by mspohr (589790)

          You have computers which take 15 minutes to boot up?
          Every laptop I have owned for the past 10 years goes to sleep at night and takes about 10 seconds to wake up in the morning.
          I think you're doing something wrong.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        Most corporate users, and home users for that matter have no idea how to repair computers. They will simply send it back to the manufacturer to be replaced.

  • Zero Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bloodhawk (813939) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:13PM (#45654011)
    What a coincidence. Zero Trust is EXACTLY what I have in google.
    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      Fortunately, this seems unlikely to affect you unless you already have access to Google's corporate network. TFA is about Google redesigning its own network, not (as I feared) to start providing some kind of cloud-based service to other corporations. The headline is misleading, perhaps intentionally so.
      • not (as I feared) to start providing some kind of cloud-based service to other corporations.

        Ahhh, but that is where this is heading.

    • Is there someone else who DOES have a trust value that is a positive number? If not, then can trust really be an issue worth discussing?
  • by trybywrench (584843) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:16PM (#45654059)
    The rj45 jacks in the office are just plain old dirty connections to the Inet. We each have multiple OpenVPN connections on our localhost giving us access to different parts of the network depending on our roles. It's convenient because our workstations work identically wherever we are ( home, work, coffee shop ) and it's convenient when someone leaves because operations just invalidates the VPN certs and the former employee is cut off no matter where they physically are. A side effect is whenever your VPN credentials don't work you're left wondering is you're about to get fired and ops just jumped the gun haha.
  • by tippen (704534) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:27PM (#45654187)

    From a security perspective, Google is right about the notion that your internal corporate network being "safe" is dead. Between all the laptops, tablets, smartphones and very portable USB devices, there really isn't a secure perimeter on your network. Security needs to be applied at each entry point to the network, whether that is wired (internal or external doesn't matter), wireless or virtual.

    The summary implied that the need for security devices goes away once you give up the idea of a perimeter, but that isn't the case at all. The form that security comes in may change, but you still need it. Authenticated users connecting via secure tunnels doesn't eliminate the risk of malware, so you still need IPS and anti-malware devices (Fidelis, FireEye, etc.) to keep your protect company assets from valid authenticated users.

    If you can't trust any of the devices on your network, then you need to inspect 100% of the traffic entering the network.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      My thinking on this is a bit different, and boils down to this principle: There's still a perimeter, but most of the office is outside of the perimeter.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Not at every entry point, security should be a serious consideration on every device. Work on the assumption that everything is directly exposed to the internet and start from there.
      Trying to only monitor the entry points is the problem, if anything makes it past your entry points then it could have free reign over everything inside.

  • by billcarson (2438218) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @06:07PM (#45655403)
    In their whole talk they assumed the users of the services know what they are doing and how to behave. I'm sure that in Google's case all their workers are well trained, but I sure as hell couldn't allow VPN connections to our CRM database. Who knows what workers install on their laptops once they leave the office.

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