A former Facebook executive agrees that major US tech companies have likely been compromised by China and Russia.
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, was responding to a tweet questioning the credibility of tech billionaire and investor Peter Thiel’s recent accusations at the expense of Google in this regard.
Siding with Peter Thiel, Stamos tweeted that it was “completely reasonable” to assume that Chinese and Russian foreign intelligence services had “subverted” employees “at all the major tech companies.”
It is completely reasonable to assume that MSS and SVR have subverted employees at all the major tech companies. This is part of the threat model for all competent tech security teams when building internal controls, monitoring and response. https://t.co/xiKsSKsxF2
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) July 16, 2019
Mentioning China’s and Russia’s civilian intelligence services, MMS and SVR, Stamos continued that counting on such “subversion” was “part of the threat model for all competent tech security teams when building internal controls, monitoring and response.”
He also made a distinction between the work of professional spies, suggesting that the subverting might be done by any of the thousands of employees working for Big Tech whose family members are “under the control of these countries.”
Stamos also revealed that he expects a significant human intelligence-information security attack against one of the big tech companies to occur over the next couple of years, “which will trigger the same awakening that Project Aurora did in 2009.”
He was referring to the incident involving persistent attacks against a number of US tech companies, including Google, that the tech giant said was perpetrated by Chinese actors. Google left the Chinese market the following year, 2010.
Meanwhile, the comments made by Thiel last week at the National Conservatism Conference, that served as the context for Stamos’ tweets, suggested Google indeed might have been infiltrated by foreign intelligence services.
Thiel, Silicon Valley’s most prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump, also asked if this was the reason Google was unwilling to work with the US military on Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects, but would engage “in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military.”
Thiel also urged security and intelligence agencies to investigate whether Google had been infiltrated, an initiative that Trump later supported in remarks made before journalists, and on Twitter.
Joe Lonsdale, Thiel’s fellow co-founder of Palantir, a US data mining company that is a government contractor, defended Thiel for making the comments about Google.
Lonsdale told CNBC that Thiel’s remarks were courageous, and accused Google of not being a patriotic company.
Google responded to Thiel’s allegations by reiterating its previously announced statement that it was “not working with the Chinese military.”