Google is confident that its cloud-based Chrome OS will change the computer security landscape beyond recognition. That the many layers of security built in to the operating system will be enough to render third-party anti-virus solutions useless.That you will no longer have to “spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.” But not everyone - least of all computer security companies - is convinced.
One of the skeptics, Rik Ferguson, director of security research at Trend Micro, has dismissed Google’s security promises as “media friendly” hogwash while comparing them to similar claims from Apple: “While I applaud the impressive advances in security that are apparent in Chrome OS, to a certain extent we are seeing marketing history repeat itself. How often did the mantra that MacOS was immune to malware need to be repeated until the vast majority of users believed it and continue to do so, even after Apple went as far as incorporating rudimentary AV software into MacOS?”
In a recent blog post, Ferguson tersely touched upon Chrome’s key security features, including sandboxing, automatic updates, complete absence of desktop apps, cloud-based data storage, and the ability to seamlessly revert back to the last known good state when an anomaly is detected.
He then proceeded to focus on some of the possible workarounds that malware vendors are likely to employ. Ferguson feels that as hackers are likely to find new ways of circumnavigating the sandbox itself, it would be “short-sighted” to completely rely on sandboxing technology even when it is as effective as Chrome’s.
He further wrote, “As regards the notion of the operating system always reverting to a known good state at reboot and the security afforded by encrypted data being stored in Google’s cloud, well surely that’s just moving the goalposts for the bad guys.”
“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.”
Even though it’s not too surprising to see Trend Micro having a problem with Google’s assertion, it does have a point in that no operating system is impregnable and that Chrome OS will, over time, have its fair share of security issues - just a case of how they manifest themselves.
All said, the cloud-based operating system is likely to make things a bit more complicated for malware authors. It’s also just as important to acknowledge the great job that Google has done in making Chrome one of the safest web browsers out there. It now needs to keep up the good work.