Google has unveiled an elite squad of hackers tasked with scouring the internet for security holes and defending the public against cyberattacks.
Unveiled on Wednesday as “Project Zero”, the team will hunt for bugs in the world’s most popular software, such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
“You should be able to use the web without fear that a criminal or state-sponsored actor is exploiting software bugs to infect your computer, steal secrets or monitor your communications,” Google security researcher Chris Evans said in a blog post.
Yet he said sophisticated attacks continue to target, for instance, human rights activists and businesses.
“This needs to stop. We think more can be done to tackle this problem.
“We’re hiring the best practically-minded security researchers and contributing 100 per cent of their time toward improving security across the internet.”
The squad will focus mainly on “zero-day vulnerabilities” – little-known software weaknesses used to hack devices and spy on users before developers have a chance to fix them.
A number of private firms already hunt for such vulnerabilities, selling their information to governments and affected companies.
Yet these firms do not always share their findings publicly, meaning the vulnerabilities can continue to be exploited.
Evans said Project Zero would conduct its work transparently, with all bugs being filed in a public database after first being passed on to the software’s vendor for fixing.
Public disclosure will also give users the opportunity to monitor how long companies take to resolve vulnerabilities, he added.
Google’s announcement comes after the recent “heartbleed” scare, in which a flaw in internet encryption codes went undiscovered for two years, potentially allowing attackers to siphon data from supposedly secure websites.
Google researchers were involved in discovering and patching the bug.