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Google 'Security Princess' Visits New Orleans, Speaks At UNO

Adam Norris
Google "Security Princess" Parisa Tabriz speaks to students at UNO about information security.

The self-appointed Google "Security Princess," ParisaTabriz, has worked on information security for nearly a decade. She started as a "hired hacker" software engineer for Google's security team. As an engineer, she found and closed security holes in Google's products, and taught other engineers how to do the same.

These days, Tabriz manages Google Chrome's security engineering team, where the goal is to make Chrome the safest way to browse the web, and generally improve security on the Internet. On Tuesday, she visited the University of New Orleans’ elite information assurance program, which was named a Center of Academic Excellence last summer by the National Security Agency.

Tabriz delivered a lecture entitled “TechTalk: The Hacker Spectrum: Tales of people that break things and how being hacker-friendly can lead to better security,” and shared how she got into hacking, her perspective on some of the motivations of modern-day hackers, and how she got the name “Security Princess."

“It's actually a funny story,” Tabriz says. "I started at Google and my official title was 'Information Security Engineer on the Information Security Engineering Team,' and I thought it was confusing and just sort of boring, so I wanted to pick something different. I was also headed to a security conference in Tokyo, and some of my colleagues told me that it was really important to have business cards. So I decided to pick something funny, which was ‘Security Princess,’ which I figured meant nothing but was sort of whimsical. I had business cards printed with that, and it's just sort of stuck ever since.”

Tabriz says hackers often get a bad rap.

"I think of hackers as people who try to understand how software works and figure out how to use software in ways that weren’t originally intended, not necessarily for a bad purpose,” Tabriz says. "So I think working with the mindset of trying to break things can expose ways that you can make the software stronger and more secure. A lot of the people I work with at Google focus on trying to find the holes, or break the software — but ultimately, so that we can patch them before attackers can harm users using those bugs."

Tabriz was joined by Sabrina Farmer, a Google engineer and UNO computer science alumna. Farmer sponsors a computer science scholarship at UNO.

Support for Tech and Innovation reporting on WWNO is provided by Bellwether Technology.

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