Security concerns are reportedly hastening an internal move by Google to migrate away from Microsoft Windows.
According to the Financial Times, Google has been phasing out Windows since January in response to the infamous Aurora attack. The effort may effectively end the use of Windows by Google’s more than 10,000 global employees.
In early January some new hires were still being allowed to install Windows on their laptops, the Financial Times said, but it was not an option for their desktop computers. New hires are now given the option of using the Apple Mac OS X or Linux operating systems, and getting a new Windows PC reportedly now requires CIO approval.
Part of the migration is an internal effort by the company to run its own products, such as Google Chrome OS, which will compete with Windows when it is released. Employees have also been moving away from Windows on their own, according to a source cited in the article.
“Particularly since the China scare, a lot of people here are using Macs for security [reasons],” an employee said. “Before the security, there was a directive by the company to try to run things on Google products. It was a long time coming.”
In March, Forrester Research released a report saying roughly 86 percent of surveyed Windows 7 users said they were satisfied with the operating system, though just 10 percent of Windows XP and Windows Vista users said they planned to upgrade to Windows 7 within the next six months.
“This is an overreaction by Google and appears to be an attempt to discredit a competitor by casting [aspersions] on the Windows OS rather than solving the root cause of the problem,” Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald said. “Google fell victim because some number of users were still using IE 6. … It was an IE 6 zero-day vulnerability that was attacked, not Windows.”
MacDonald continued, “The root cause is that all commercial software will have vulnerabilities. Switching from Windows and IE 6 merely switches out one vulnerable layer for another … Mac OS has its fair share of vulnerabilities. So does Safari. So does Linux. So does Chrome, for that matter.”
Windows is a more popular target for attackers than other operating systems because it is so popular among users, Forrester Research analyst Jonathan Penn said.
“So this migration away from Windows might lower the noise around run-of-the-mill security incidents,” Penn said. “But there’s been a lot written about how Linux [and] Mac aren’t any less vulnerable than Windows. So I’d expect that the motivated and well-resourced groups behind targeted attacks such as the Aurora incident in January will not be deterred by this change.”
Google declined to say much about on the matter, stating only that it is “always working to improve the efficiency of [its] business,” and would not comment about specific operational situations.