Google's OS security claims called 'idiotic'

Security experts disagree on whether the Google OS can live up to the company's promises

Google, while announcing its new Chrome operating system late Tuesday, said users would no longer have to worry about viruses, malware and security updates, but security experts disagreed on whether Google can deliver on those promises.

Google said in a blog post that it was "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." An operating system should "just work," the company said.

Bruce Schneier, the chief security technology officer at BT, scoffed at Google's promise.

"It's an idiotic claim," Schneier wrote in an e-mail. "It was mathematically proved decades ago that it is impossible -- not an engineering impossibility, not technologically impossible, but the 2+2=3 kind of impossible -- to create an operating system that is immune to viruses."

Redesigning an operating system from scratch, "[taking] security into account all the way up and down," could make for a more secure OS than ones that have been developed so far, Schneier said. But that's different from Google's promise that users won't have to deal with viruses or malware, he added.

Other security experts suggested that it's possible for Google to at least make a more secure and user-friendly operating system.

"Operating system vendors can do a much better job of hiding security from the users -- taking care of changes without forcing outages and reboots and managing the security of all the other applications installed on top of the OS," said Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, a cybersecurity training organization.

"Google is all about the user experience, so perhaps they learned from the mistakes of the earlier, less-user-friendly OS providers."

Brian Chess, cofounder and chief security officer at cybersecurity vendor Fortify Software, said he's optimistic that Google seems to be making security a priority as it develops the Chrome OS.

"With the caveat that nothing out there is going to be 100 percent secure, and new systems ... are going to have more problems than code that's been battle-tested for a long time, I think the Google guys are right," Chess said.

"They could make a system that is significantly better from a security standpoint than the systems most people use today."

Google has a chance to start over from a user expectation point of view, Chess said. The company has several research projects focused on cybersecurity, he noted.

Google could, for example, make top security a default setting in the OS, instead of requiring users to change their setting to make their OS more secure, he said.

And Google could build in safeguards that stop users from downloading a virus when they click on a link in an e-mail, he added.

"From a security standpoint, this is a great day," Chess said. "The question is, is the system going to be able to do a reasonable job of defending itself even in the face of a certain amount of user error? I think they've got a pretty good shot at it."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags LinuxChrome OSGooglesecurityvirusoperating systemsbruce schneiermalwareGoogle Chrome OS

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?