Google CEO Sundar Pichai finds himself a guinea pig for security testing

28 Jun 2016

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has found himself the latest high-profile figure in tech to have his security tested, with news that an online security firm accessed his Quora account and made its success known to the world.

Sundar Pichai has been CEO of Google for less than a year now, but in this short space of time he’s racked up a wage that comes with being CEO of one of the wealthiest companies in the planet but, surprisingly, his personal security could do with some brushing up.

With recent months revealing that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was a victim of the major LinkedIn breach that subsequently led to his Twitter and Pinterest profiles being hacked, Pichai has now discovered his Quora account has been breached.

Future Human

This is just a test, allegedly

However, according to The Next Web, Pichai can count himself lucky as, seemingly, his account on the feedback website was accessed by a group claiming to be a security firm called OurMine that has said it was merely conducting a test.

Rather than just quietly testing whether they had indeed gained access to Pichai’s passwords, OurMine decided to publicly reveal that he was vulnerable by sending tweets from his account saying it is just testing his security.

While the tweets have since been removed, OurMine has issued a response revealing that it managed to access Pichai’s password via an exploit in Quora’s platform saying: “We are just testing people security (sic), we never change their passwords, we did it because there is other hackers can hack them and change everything.”

Quora denies vulnerability

However, claims of vulnerabilities found in Quora’s platform are being questioned, with suggestions that Pichai’s details were accessed another way, at least according to Quora itself, which has issued a response to OurMine’s claims.

“We are confident that Sundar Pichai’s account was not accessed via a vulnerability in Quora’s systems,” Quora said in a statement.

“This is consistent with past reports where OurMine exploited previous password leaks on other services to gain access to accounts on Twitter or Facebook. We also have no record of a report by OurMine pointing to a vulnerability.”

Channing Tatum also a target

As for the mysterious origins of OurMine, supposed conversations held with one of its members reveal that it consists of three teenagers whose goal is to target high-profile targets with the aim of promoting better security.

While not revealing where OurMine is based, the person putting themselves forward as being with the group denied reports that it is based in Saudi Arabia, despite claims by one hacker that its IP address is based there.

Aside from just targeting famous faces in the tech world, it’s believed the group is also attempting to worm its way into accounts of Hollywood stars, most notably the star of 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike, Channing Tatum.

Sundar Pichai image via Nguyen Hung Vu/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic