Google restricts Internet access for some employees for security reasons

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

Leonardo Munoz | Corbis News | Getty Images

Google is starting a new pilot program on Wednesday that will restrict access to desktop PCs without the Internet for some employees, CNBC reports.

The company initially selected more than 2,500 employees to participate, but after receiving feedback, the company revised the pilot to allow employees to opt out and also opened it up to volunteers. The company will disable Internet access on selected desktops, except for internal web tools and Googleown websites like Google Drive and Gmail. Some workers who need the Internet to do their jobs will be exempt, according to the company’s materials.

Some employees also won’t have root access, meaning they won’t be able to run administrative commands or do things like install software.

Google is launching a program to reduce the risk of cyberattacks, according to internal materials. “Google employees are often the targets of attacks,” says one internal memo seen by CNBC. If a Google employee’s device is compromised, attackers can gain access to user data and infrastructure code, which could lead to a major incident and undermine user trust, the description added.

Disabling most Internet access ensures that attackers cannot easily run arbitrary code remotely or capture data, the description explains.

The program comes as companies face increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Microsoft said last week that Chinese intelligence had hacked Microsoft email accounts belonging to two dozen government agencies, including the State Department, in the US and Western Europe in a “significant” breach. Since opening a public sector division last year, Google has been handling US government contracts.

It also comes as Google, which is preparing a company-wide rollout of various artificial intelligence tools, is trying to boost security. The company has also made more of an effort to contain leaks in recent months.

“Keeping our products and users safe is one of our top priorities,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We regularly explore ways to strengthen our internal systems against malicious attacks.”

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