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Warning about translation web site: Passwords and contracts accessible on the Internet

Sensitive information that has been translated at a popular digital translation service has been stored in the cloud and could be searchable via Google. Tekna warns Norwegian authorities, companies and private citizens against naïve use of the web site.

Kombo av skjermdumper fra Translate.com

Using simple Google search, it is possible to find text and documents translated using the Translate.com website. Tekna and NRK have found many examples of translated text that are not intended for the public.

Foto: Skjermdump / Google/Translate.com

«We found notices of dismissal, plans of workforce reductions and outsourcing, passwords, code information and contracts.»

So says Lise Lyngsnes Randeberg, president of Tekna (The Norwegian Society of Graduate Technical and Scientific Professionals), after having conducted Google searches connected to the web site Translate.com.

Randeberg explains that text that has been translated via the translation web site has been stored in the cloud and so is accessible for everyone online.

«In some cases this violates the privacy of individual citizens. In other cases it concerns sensitive information from the largest companies in Norway that could affect the stock market.»

Wow, what is this?

Last week employees in Statoil discovered that text that had been typed in on the web site could be found by anyone conducting a search. Tekna president Randeberg says that her organization has carried out further tests and warns that this issue concerns many more than the oil giant.

Lise Lyngsnes Randeberg i Tekna snakker om IT-sikkerhet

Lise Lyngsnes Randeberg is president of the Technical and Natural Sciences Association (Tekna). She worries about whether most people are aware of the danger of using translation services.

Foto: Wilhelm Sverdvik / NRK

«When we sat down and googled we just thought: ‘Wow! What is this?’ This was information from organizations, private companies, government agencies,» says Randeberg.

NRK has tested the relatively simple procedure to search for text that has been translated via translate.com.Many of the hits reveal translated text that was clearly not meant for the public.

One of the many companies that NRK has found documents about is Statoil. Statoil themselves state that they just have found "non-sensitive" information. They have nevertheless contacted translate.com to get the information deleted.

Vilkår for Translate.com
Foto: Skjermdump / Translate.com

Offers simple removal

NRK has contacted translate.com. They explain that they openly state that all texts being sent to the company in order to improve the quality of the translations.

«Some of these enquiries were indexed by Google, so now we offer a simple solution for those who wish to remove these translations when they appear in a search engine» translate.com's «Support Team» writes in an email to NRK.

The company also writes that translations concerning Statoil were removed quickly when Statoil contacted them on August 31st.

Despite this, in a few minutes NRK managed to restore many of the documents by simple searches.

Warns Norwegian companies

In Randeberg's opinion the tests Tekna performed show that many Norwegian companies and organizations have not read the conditions for use connected to the popular translation web site well enough. She now calls for more awareness concerning IT security from Norwegian companies.

«If your boss recommends that you use a service, you must be able to trust it. This shows that there is a desperate need for upgrading IT security expertise both at the top, and down to the individual employee.»

«I urge all Norwegians companies, organizations and public authorities to check if anyone at their workplace has used this service» Randeberg says.

The article has been changed.

Tekna sjekker sikkerhetshull ved oversettingstjenester

Terje Sletnes, Director of Social Policy in Tekna, demonstrates how he can search for texts translated through Translate.com.

Foto: Wilhelm Sverdvik / NRK
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