Google Ditches Windows Company Wide
The Story So Far
It’s been reported recently that Google have decided to ditch the Windows operating system across the entire company, which employs around 10,000 people worldwide. The move away from Windows has apparently been caused by security concerns arising from the Operation Aurora attacks in the latter half of 2009.
Operation Aurora was an attack by Chinese hackers that allowed them to steal a large amount of sensitive data and statistics from the Google servers; apparently initiating their attack through a flaw in Internet Explorer.
Google’s clearly upset and is making a point of taking out its’ frustration on China and Microsoft. Some sources have suggested that Google believe Operation Aurora was a Chinese government-sponsored attack, made because of Google’s clashes with China’s strict censorship laws and also because the regime was upset by Google’s revelation of China’s politically and militarily sensitive geographical information through Google Earth.
Google is also more than happy to point the finger of blame directly in Microsoft’s direction, citing their security issues as the main reasoning behind their move away from the Windows OS (initiated in January 2010).
A Google source stated:
We’re not doing any more Windows, it’s a security concern
Staff are now being asked to work on either MAC OS or Linux if they’re working on a PC, with all Windows software (browsers and OS) being removed from company use entirely.
Google haven’t forgotten about China either, they’re now suggesting they may shut down their offices in China and pull out of the country all together (even hinting that they will no longer filter Google results in any way to fit in with Chinese censorship laws).
Actually that should probably be ‘John Thinks….’, and to be honest John isn’t entirely sure. Half of me thinks Google are naive and have been a little bit stupid, half of me thinks they’re extremely clever. Let me explain:
A lot has been made of the fact that Google were running IE6 on Windows XP (so that’s an out of date browser on an out of date OS) and I can understand why; it’s fairly stupid for a company as big as Google to be running out of date software. They hadn’t even installed the latest (at the time) security patch for IE6 and according to some experts were almost asking to be hacked.
Windows has more malware designed and created for it than any other OS, but that’s because it’s the most popular, prevalent OS on the planet (or at least in the West), so there’s probably some truth in Google’s statement that they’re not as secure as other operating systems available – however I wouldn’t suggest that this is an inherent flaw in Windows. There’s more malware available for them because mischievous developers don’t want to invest time and effort into malware that will only affect a small percentage of people.
I would suggest that if top-level hackers wanted to hack Google with a targeted attack, they could be successful no matter which OS the Google offices were running.
So I think Google’s suggestion that Windows is weak in terms of security is a statement that has some truth to it, but also shows up Google slightly when you look a little deeper.
It also seems as though everyone’s focusing on the attack as though it was aimed specifically (and only) at them, particularly in relation to China. This isn’t exactly true though, a little research on Operation Aurora reveals official statements from Adobe Systems, Rackspace and Juniper Network, all publicly acknowledging they were targeted by the same attack. There could well be more too, as Yahoo!, Dow Chemicals and Symantec have all been reported to have been targeted, although I can’t find confirmation from the companies themselves.
At the same time however, this is all good marketing from Google’s point of view, and actually, more than anything it just makes good business sense.
Google and Microsoft compete in a myriad of different areas, including email, search, operating systems, entertainment systems, etc. and as such are huge rivals; genuine, major competition for each other. Currently, I think it would be fair to suggest that Google are winning when it comes to search, and Microsoft when it comes to OS; with the growth of both Google Chrome and Microsoft Bing, I’d say they were very clearly going after each others dominant market share in these areas.
So it would seem to make good business sense then for Google to run from it’s own operating system and to stop running a rivals’; removing 10,000 renewals of Windows from the Microsoft balance sheet.
Plus, when Google makes a statement like this one it tends to get noticed. Introducing (or increasing upon) doubt regarding the security of the Windows OS and web browser is an extremely clever thing to do as they’re trying to build and popularise their own OS. I wouldn’t go so far as suggesting Google got hacked on purpose, that would be silly, but using the attack as a way of publicly criticising Microsoft and to make a move they were probably considering anyway, isn’t too far short of marketing genius.
In my view, Google are well aware that it’s not entirely Microsoft’s fault, but they’re doing an extremely good job of not looking a gift horse in the mouth and making the best of a “bad” situation.