Google’s “security princess,” an Illinois alumna, featured in the Financial Times

Parisa Tabriz uses the skills from two degrees at U of I to protect Google Chrome users from cyber crime.

Google’s ‘security princess’ on protecting users from cyber crime by Hannah Kuchler
Parisa Tabriz says she has to forget how a normal user views a product, and consider it from a hacker’s perspective
by Hannah Kuchler

FINANCIAL TIMES - Parisa Tabriz may work on the frontline of web security, tasked with keeping Google Chrome users around the world safe from an army of cyber criminals, but she still lives the life of a young adult. Leading the way to her light-filled loft room at her home in Mountain View, California, she recalls how a friend made fun of her when she turned 30. “He said to me ‘Time to be an adult – you don’t even have a door to your room’.”

In Silicon Valley, where just-out-of-college chief executives are canonised, and hundreds of 20- and 30-somethings lead exciting but unflashy lives, Tabriz is no exception. Her home – a 20-minute cycle from Google’s headquarters – is a new-build, two-bedroom rental which she shares with a housemate, and most of the furniture was chosen by the owner in the uninspired style of landlords the world over.

Tabriz has focused her room around a large office space, having pushed her bed against a wall. Darting between two desks on a leather swivel chair, she can work from any one of her three laptops. “Almost all of my work I can do from a laptop and I do photography and some digital art. So much of my life is on this portable device, which makes it really easy to be transient,” she says.

It is this transfer of everyday life to the online world, from personal conversations to banking, that has made the work Tabriz does to maintain security on Google’s browser all the more essential. The growth of mobile devices and the invention of the so-called “Internet of Things”, where anything from thermostats to baby monitors can be connected to the web, make the opportunities for cyber crime even greater. No wonder Tabriz was named earlier this year as one of the technology industry’s “30 under 30 to watch” by Fortune magazine.

“When I started the threat was not as large and the damage was probably not as significant in the common case,” she says. “But right now, so much of people’s personal lives is put online and it is not always done with the understanding of the full consequences of what the worst case scenario is.”

In the seven years since Tabriz left college and started work in cyber security, she has seen that threat grow dramatically. After completing a computer science degree and masters at the University of Illinois and an internship at Google, she landed a job at the internet company as a security engineer. During her career, cyber criminals have gone from widespread phishing (spam emails offering plastic surgery, for instance) aimed mostly at committing credit card fraud, to more dangerous targeted attacks designed to steal anything from personal data to intellectual property and sell it on a thriving black market.

Read more at the Financial Times.



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