A man coyly un-named in most of the US media but known to TelecomTV as "Investigator Doe", has named the Google worker who, hitherto, has ben referred to by the soubriquet of "Engineer Doe". Martyn Warwick reports.
"Engineer Doe" is/was the anonymous techie at the centre of the ongoing saga about Google's illegal collection data from unsecured WiFi networks as its fleet of Street View cars passed them by, ostensibly on a mission no more malign than to snap and map the worlds highways and byways.
Engineer Doe is the chap who wrote the software that did the dirty deeds and having invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent so as not to incriminate himself in the course of the Federal Communications Commission's 17 month-long investigation, both the FCC and Google have declined to refer to him by his real name.
Now though, the New York Times newspaper has revealed that an anonymous "former state investigator" who was working on another probe into the goings-on at Street View has discovered that "Engineer Doe" is actually one Marius Milner, a programmer who, according to his Linkedin entry, used to work for Lucent and Avaya and has been with You Tube (now a Google subsidiary) since late 2008. The aforementioned Linkedin page has now disappeared from view.
Describing himself as a "hacker", "who knows more than I want about Wi-Fi" Mr.
Milner is a man of some celebrity among the software engineering community having created "NetStumbler" an application for finding and categorising wireless access points.
The availability of NetStumbler led directly to what the FCC report calls "wardriving", “the practice of driving streets and using equipment to locate wireless local-area networks using Wi-Fi, such as wireless hot spots at coffee shops and home wireless networks.”
Mr. Milner says he wrote the code that scooped-up data such as emails and from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks during the 20 per cent of the working week that Google allows its employees to develop their "self-directed projects".
Doorstepped by journalists at his home in Palo Alto, California, and asked whether the use of his software by Google could be described "criminal or rogueish", Mr. Milner provided this gnomic comment, "To do that requires putting a lot of dots together". Could this be a reference to a Morse Code message we wonder?
As might be expected, Google itself has declined to comment and has also failed to explain how senior staff were so derelict in their management duties as to allow a single engineer who, it seems, developed the software in question in his 'own time' and without reference to supervisors and then managed to get his module accepted and integrated into the software stack of a huge and prestigous project like Street View without anyone knowing.
It beggars belief. There are only two explanations, senior managers knew all about the software and allowed it to be covertly installed in Street View with the specific intent of eavesdropping on W-Fi networks and extracting data from them or, they are criminally incompetent.
And who says the Yanks don't do irony? The Geekwire site says it has trawled through Google's patents and has found that in 2007, Marius Milner is cited as the inventor of a system to protect networks against “hackers and other ne’er-do-wells [who] may seek to tap into communications on a network.”
You couldn't make this up.
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