Feeds

Google Oompa-Loompas dream of virus-free OS

Everlasting gobstopper

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google has rather rashly claimed its plans to develop an operating system promise an end to security woes.

The search giant said Google Chrome OS, due to debut in the second half of next year and initially targeted at netbooks, will be based on open source code and offer unprecedented security.

Sundar Pichai, VP of product management and Linus Upson, engineering director at Google, pledged an end to not just the need to run antivirus but of security updates more generally in a blog posting. The duo go on to boast that Google's sugar-coated OS will also offer speed, simplicity, an end to world hunger and an England Ashes win (we made the last two up).

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Carl Leonard, security research manager at Websense, describes Google's goals as commendable but essentially unachievable. He cited flaws in the Chrome browser as example of the kind of issue that were likely to effect Google as much as any other software developer.

"All software is susceptible to issues – it just depends on how much effort the malware author wants to go to and how much profit can be made," Leonard said. "Already we have seen vulnerabilities and issues with the Chrome browser, and Google even ran a contest in which two well-known security researchers found 12 exploitable security flaws in the company's Native Client system."

"Two of the top three security threats (SQL injection, browser vulnerability and rogue av) rely on software flaws so we know that it’s likely that malware authors will be looking for flaws in the Chrome OS to take advantage of from day one," he added.

Google Chrome OS, designed to run on both x86 as well as ARM chips, will run "within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel", Google explains. The project to develop a web-based OS for networks is separate from Android, Google's OS for mobile phones and devices such as set-top boxes.

Extended betas of Google's web apps, such as Gmail, incorporate technology to track user experience so its not that much of a stretch to imagine something similar might be incorporated into its Chrome OS, a factor that would have obvious privacy implications.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said details published thus far suggest that apps would run inside a browser rather than getting installed. Such an approach might mix up the malware problem without eliminating it entirely.

"A lot of existing malware won't work but that still leaves potential problems from issues such as cross site scripting worms," Cluley told El Reg. "Storing data in the cloud also poses privacy concerns," he added.

Cluley described Google's security boasts as "marketing blurb" that ought not to to taken too seriously and certainly no reflection on the security expertise the search engine giant is able to call upon. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.