Microsoft responds to unconfirmed reports that Google is moving its employees off of Windows-based systems for security reasons by pointing out Windows 7's security features. Google has blamed a January security breach, which resulted in the theft of intellectual property, on a vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Microsoft officials are highlighting the security of Windows in
response to Google's reported plans to transition its employees away from
Windows-based systems because of security issues. Google executives are said to
have pushed the search engine giant's 20,000 employees to switch to either
Macs or Linux-based machines, following a January security breach that took
advantage of an Internet Explorer vulnerability to steal some of Google's
itself may have been reluctant to confirm the reports-a spokesperson told
eWEEK June 1, "We're always working to improve the efficiency of our
business," while refusing to comment on specific operational matters-but
Microsoft decided that confrontation was the best policy.
"There's been some coverage overnight about the security of Windows and
whether or not one particular company is reducing its use of Windows,"
Brandon LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote
June 1 on the official Windows blog. "When it comes to security, even
hackers admit we're doing a better job making our products more secure than
anyone else. And it's not just the hackers; third-party influentials and
industry leaders like Cisco tell us regularly that our focus and investment [continue]
to surpass others."
After citing an article that "discusses how Macs are under attack by
high-risk malware," LeBlanc describes the steps taken by Microsoft to make
its customers' systems more secure. Among them: shipping software and security
updates regularly through Windows Update and Microsoft Update, encouraging
Automatic Update to protect from attacks, and adding improvements to BitLocker
and Windows Firewall. Windows 7 also "uses Address Space Layout Randomization
... as well by randomizing data in memory" to improve security, he said.
The possibility exists that Google enacted its alleged Windows ban not
because of security concerns, but to clear the way internally for its Chrome
OS, a cloud-based operating system that will be released to the general public
later in 2010. In that way, Google would be following in the footsteps of
Microsoft itself, where employees generally use Windows, or Apple, where Macs
are obviously the system of corporate choice.
"I have to wonder how much of this is due to competitive drivers versus
genuine desire to secure Google," IDC
Hilwa told eWEEK. "After all, Google has operating systems, browsers,
tools and productivity software that [are] head-to-head competitive with
Microsoft, and so this may make sense for them."
That being said, Hilwa did see some utility in a company embracing more
uncommon software for its IT infrastructure.
"There is such a thing as security through obscurity," Hilwa said,
"and it can be quite effective in certain settings. If I wanted to have
the least attractive stack for virus and malware attacks, I would use the most
obscure stack I can find, potentially including custom-developed components."
Given the increased competition between Microsoft and Google, executives for
the latter company may have seen a natural shift to Chrome OS as an opportunity
to fire a public broadside at their rival's primary software offering.
Microsoft's response highlights how much the company depends on Windows being
perceived as armor-clad.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.