Feeds

Google Chrome OS: Too secure to need security?

Confident anti-virus-less chocolateers may be repeating Apple's mistakes

The essential guide to IT transformation

A leading security researcher has warned that Google risks repeating Apple's mistakes on security with its new Chrome OS.

Google Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system designed to work exclusively with web applications. Chrome netbooks running the new OS will be available from Google's partners Samsung and Acer from June. In a launch announcement, Google boasted of an end to patching and anti-virus updates woes.

Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won't spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.

Rik Ferguson, a security consultant at Trend Micro, criticised this line as marketing rhetoric. Google risks repeating the security mistakes of Apple, he warns.

Security features of Chrome OS include process sandboxing (so any app is unable to interfere with other apps on a system), automatic updating and a reversion to the last known good state if any problems are detected. This latter feature is possible because user files are stored in the cloud (and encrypted), with only system files held locally.

In addition, every application in Chrome OS will run inside the browser, with only (sandboxes) browser plug-ins running locally.

However this sterile environment is unlikely to last long, not least because Google has created a a Software Development Kit that allows the creation of Chrome "native apps", according to Ferguson, who reckons this open the door towards the creation of malware.

Sandboxing technology ought to prevent any bad apps that are created getting out of their play pen. But Ferguson warns that sandboxing technology is no panacea for security woes.

"Exploits that break out of sandboxing have already been demonstrated for Internet Explorer, for Java, for Google Android and of course for the Chrome browser (to name but a few), while the Google sandbox is effective, it is not impenetrable and to rely on it for 100 per cent security would be short-sighted," he said.

Rebooting laptops and storing data in the cloud is just "moving the goalposts" for scammers, Ferguson further argues. Instead of stealing data on a compromised device, the motivation will shift towards swiping authentication keys. "If I can infect you for one session and steal your keys, well then I'll get what I can while I'm in there and then continue accessing your stuff in the cloud; after all I've got your keys now, I don't need your PC anymore," Ferguson writes.

Ferguson praises Google for its engineering work but questions its apparent suggestion that switching OSes is a "silver bullet" capable of killing off the modern myriad of security woes. He draws a comparison between Google's claim that Chrome needs no anti-virus and similar claims in the past by Apple.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Pay to play: The hidden cost of software defined everything
Enter credit card details if you want that system you bought to actually be useful
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
HP busts out new ProLiant Gen9 servers
Think those are cool? Wait till you get a load of our racks
Silicon Valley jolted by magnitude 6.1 quake – its biggest in 25 years
Did the earth move for you at VMworld – oh, OK. It just did. A lot
VMware's high-wire balancing act: EVO might drag us ALL down
Get it right, EMC, or there'll be STORAGE CIVIL WAR. Mark my words
Forrester says it's time to give up on physical storage arrays
The physical/virtual storage tipping point may just have arrived
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.