Google sheds light on Chrome OS Netbook security

Open source OS project allows for constant feedback from developers, company says

Google's Chrome OS Netbook will feature a host of built-in security technologies designed to protect users from malware and other threats, a Google engineer said at the recent RSA Conference.

Will Drewry, a Google software security engineer, said the fact that the company's Chrome OS is an open source project allows for constant feedback from developers regarding security design. This, he said, should reassure those acquiring a Google Netbook about the product's security.

Google plans to release a consumer version later this year and a business version featuring more management muscle in 2011, Drewry said.

All of the Google Netbook products will ship with the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) installed for security in key storage and multi-factor authentication in the future, as well as a "trusted bootpath," Drewry said. TPM is an industry-standard hardware module based on an architecture from the industry forum Trusted Computing Group.

The Google Chrome OS is a "hardened" operating system, according to Drewry. The auto-updating and sandbox features are intended to reduce exposure to malware, and Chrome OS will even help you with "safe-browsing" because if you stumble upon a Web site known to contain malware, you'll be warned, he said.

There is a way to run in "developer mode," through a switch located under the battery, Drewry said. That mode would cause loss of some of the specialized security functions that would otherwise be there, "but you can do what you want," he said.

It's intended to let developers tinker with the code to find new ideas.

The first Google Netbook, expected out later this year, is intended for use by consumers. However, Google is looking at developing a somewhat different version for the enterprise which would have functionality, especially in management, that businesses might prefer.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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Ellen Messmer

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