Google enlists top hacker for Project Zero campaign

Prolific hacker George Hotz has been enlisted by Google as a key part of its new Project Zero team that is designed to identify critical bugs and vulnerabilities in all software.

Related: George ‘Geohot’ Hotz has taken a job at Facebook

Hotz, whose hit list includes Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Apple’s iPhone, has been taken on as an intern to work on Google’s Project Zero, which aims to find problems within all software.

The “well staffed” team is primarily designed to work on finding new zero-day vulnerabilities in all software and not just those produced by Google.

"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," said Chris Evans, Google’s head of Project Zero, in a blog post. "Yet in sophisticated attacks, we see the use of 'zero-day' vulnerabilities to target, for example, human rights activists or to conduct industrial espionage. This needs to stop.

A list of all vulnerabilities will be made public as part of a database that includes how long it took a firm to react to a bug and then issue a patch or other solution that fixed the error.

Hotz, who goes by the geohot moniker online, was taken to court after hacking the PlayStation 3 so that it played pirated games and the electronics giant eventually settled out of court with Hotz agreeing to not take on Sony products in future.

The prolific hacker also successful hacked Google’s Chrome OS and HP awarded Hotz a $150,000 [£88,000] prize as part of a hacking competition that was organised by the manufacturer.

Google could invoke the ire of other firms by reporting errors and vulnerabilities in software, though one expert doesn’t think this will be a problem.

"Other companies may begrudgingly accept Google reporting a vulnerability," security expert Brian Honan told the BBC. "But at the same time, most companies do now have a progressive attitude to receiving reports - I don't see them looking at Google in a negative way."