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Google staff dropping Windows for Macs, Linux PCs

updated 10:10 pm EDT, Mon May 31, 2010

Google says Windows too much of security risk

Google is abandoning the use of Windows by its staff as it's too much of a security threat, multiple staffers said Monday night. Recent concerns about Chinese hacks have the search firm requiring either a Mac or Linux for all new recruits to provide better security. Those who want Windows now often require explicit approval from executives and may not have any choice on desktops where it's only an option for notebooks.

"Getting a new Windows machine now requires CIO approval," one worker told the FT when asked.

Some of the reason for banning Windows would come from Google's efforts on Chrome OS, which the company would like to promote among its workers. The OS isn't yet complete but has been in beta sine late last year. Some employees have been upset by the move, but much of the company actively prefers Macs and is unaffected by the current policy. "It would have made more people upset if they banned Macs rather than Windows," one said.

Mac OS X isn't necessarily more secure than Windows, but the sheer volume of malware and other threats makes Windows a more common target. Regardless of the reasons, the relative unfamiliarity of black hat hackers with Linux and the Mac gives Google a relatively safer environment. Among other advantages, the alternative platforms avoid botnets and other attacks designed to exploit the sheer ubiquity of Windows PCs.


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By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008

    +1

    What malware?...

    I haven't heard about any malware on Windows computers.

    Anyway, it's nice to hear that Google employees would like to use Macs. I suspect that in many companies there are many employees that would like to change, but those damn lapdog IT managers just refuse to support anything that isn't certified by Microsoft.

  1. jfgilbert

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +18

    This is war

    The press has talked a lot about the alleged fall-out between Google and Apple, but the competition between these two is only peripheral. It was clear at Google I/O, a couple weeks ago, that Google is targeting the enterprise more than ever, and the real battle is with Microsoft. The security issue is only part of the picture, and, in my opinion a small one. The real goal is to show that a very large, technically advanced, and distributed company can do without Microsoft, and that will hurt. I can hear CEOs and boards asking their CIOs what they think about it or what they are doing about that Microsoft threat.
    I am sure Microsoft will respond in kind. Balmer will probably forbid his kids to use Google maps, or something as powerful.

  1. facebook_Matthew

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2010

    +2

    Thank you!

    Thanks for providing what might be the only technically accurate article on this subject. Apparently the rest of the tech press doesn't know what Linux is and simply ignores how important that OS is to Google engineers.

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Jan 2000

    +7

    WFT?

    Mac OS X is certainly inherently more secure that Windows! It's UNIX underpinnings have decades of proven security from malware of all sorts. This part of the article is rubbish.

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +10

    Note to MacNN

    When copying press releases verbatim, please remember to remove any anti-Mac rubbish next time. As msuper69 points out, MacOS X is indeed *inherently more secure* than Windows, a well-established and indisputable fact.

    If the article had said "Mac OS X isn't immune to security issues," that would have been much more accurate, but saying "isn't necessarily more secure than Windows" is just laughable and reveals the ignorance of the original authors (whom, I'd wager, are employed by C|Net).

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Nov 2006

    +3

    Apple's Special Deal for Google employees

    Buy one Mac and get one iPhone for free. Or trade-in any Android for a brand new 99 cents iPhone.

  1. JulesLt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005

    +2

    Black Hats

    Msuper69 - a default install of Snow Leopard is inherently less secure than a default Windows 7 install - and I say that as someone who spent years arguing the case for the Unix design over Windows.

    Unix has never been invulnerable, either, nor does one actually need to gain root level access to do serious damage (for instance, to hack a website and insert your own code, you need only gain access to the user account running the web server software).

    Of course there is a difference between inherent security and practical security - which is why someone like Charlie Miller still uses OS X as their main OS, despite continually cracking it in competitions.

    A lot of Windows installs, for instance, have to disable security in order to use bad legacy software - that insists on running as Admin - and a big problem with Vista was users disabling security as annoying.

    Equally, OS X can be hardened beyond it's default configuration (and should be if you're running it on an untrusted network - which would include any school, and any firm large enough that you don't personally trust every employee) - i.e. do not allow users to install software, configure outgoing firewall, etc.

    The key difference there - I can't think of a reason why you would lower or remove the basic security on OS X, but there are pressures to do so on Windows.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    -3

    uh

    "Mac OS X isn't necessarily more secure than Windows..."

    where have you been? no, i'm talking about market share, i'm not talking about security through obscurity c***... ms shot themselves in the foot with windows by tying everything into it creating huge gaping holes for the bad guys. ie, media, all that c*** they made part of the os is why they are less secure. geesh, do some research.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    Re: WFT?

    Mac OS X is certainly inherently more secure that Windows! It's UNIX underpinnings have decades of proven security from malware of all sorts. This part of the article is rubbish.

    It isn't about 'security of underpinnings', since most of the attacks on Google and many other companies recently were either through social engineering or trojan horses. None of the software running on these computers required 'root' or admin access, since they could just as easily run the trojans under the current user account.

    And remember that most of the 'vulnerabilities' in windows involves conning users into downloading some file or another, not through some gaping underlying hole in the OS. If more large companies start moving to OS X, there'll be even more impetus by the black hat community to start working malware/trojans for the mac.

    But I'm sure if/when those hit the streets, we'll hear how it's a user issue, not an OS issue, and thus doesn't count as an 'attack'.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +1

    Re: Only if you somehow gain access to an account.

    Only if you somehow gain access to an account...can you somehow hack a web server. And how does one go about getting the password? That is not some weakness of the OS but a social engineering attack which works on any OS.

    Actually, many a time it's a weakness or security hole in the web hosting software on the web server. For example, all the hacking of web sites through older versions of WordPress.

    And if you can hack into an ad server's web site, you can infect the ads with various code to con users into downloading malware of some type (like those occasional "You've got a virus!" windows that pop up, looking like a Windows anti-virus software window.

    Of course, it usually is worse in the OS X world for this stuff, because Apple never seems to be distributing anything close to 'up-to-date' versions of software like Apache. This is why most people using OS X as a web server always just end up installing the latest versions of the software separate from Apple's copy. So they can get the bug fixes installed when they're released, not when Apple decides it has enough security patches put together to send out an update (because heaven forbid Apple sends out multiple security patches; people might make fun of them or something).

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