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01 June 2010, 10:22

Report: Google phasing out internal use of Microsoft Windows

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According to a report in the Financial Times, Google are phasing out the use of Microsoft's Windows within the company because of security concerns. Citing several Google employees, the FT report reports that new hires are offered the option of using Apple Mac systems or PCs running Linux. The move is believed to be related to a directive issued after Google's Chinese operations were attacked in January. In that attack, Chinese hackers took advantage of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer on a Windows PC used by a Google employee and from there gained deeper access to Google's single sign on service.

"We're not doing any more Windows. It is a security effort" one un-named Google employee told the FT. Other un-named employees are quoted as saying "A lot of people here are using Macs for security" while another employee added "Linux is open source and we feel good about it. Microsoft we don't feel so good about". According to the report, Google employees who want to continue using Windows or get a new Windows system now require CIO approval. The move has generated "mild discontent" among employees who have grown used to being allowed to select any operating system to work with, but according to another employee "It would have upset more people if they banned Macs rather than Windows".

Google are also encouraging employees to use Google's own products such as Chrome and ChromeOS internally as part of the initiative and hopes that with these steps it can isolate employees from common Windows pests such as viruses and malware. For Mac OS X and Linux there are virtually no equivalent pests. However, the Mac OS X and Linux developers are not infallible and there are weaknesses in these systems which could be used to create exploits. The change will probably protect Google employees from un-targeted attacks that just require a user to visit a web page, but they may be less likely to protect against targeted attacks where the attacker usually has sophisticated exploits available. For example, at the Pwn2Own competition earlier this year, hacker Charlie Miller showed how quickly the Safari browser on Mac OS X could be cracked using an unknown vulnerability.

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