Chromebook: A New Class of Risk

Announcing the Chromebook at Google I/O, the cloud-book computer concept to be built by Samsung and Acer around the Atom N750 processors, one might think that 2Gb of RAM and 16Gb of SSD storage is a ridiculously low-end specification. But as Google heavily promotes them, the web has more storage space than any computer.

Interestingly, Google’s promo claims “it doesn’t need virus protection…”

On the way, I will quote from a couple of articles on this topic: OS-News summarising Net-Security.org.

“It is designed around the concept of ‘expendable’ terminals that you can lose, drop or simply throw away without fear of losing your data, which is safely stored into the cloud. From this point of view, the operating system could get damaged or even infected with malware and all you have to do is to reinstall it and re-authenticate with the cloud storage to get exactly the same computing experience as before the crash.”

“Sadly, this claim comes at a pretty bad time, since the French company VUPEN Security having announced only a few days ago that they’ve cracked the security protections build by Google into Chrome and are now able to infect a computer through a malicious page when it’s browsed.”

Malware evolves as defensive conditions change. Chrome-OS may have sand-boxing, self-healing updates and advanced firewalls, but it’s used in a different way; all your data is available in the cloud, in one place, available 24/7 through a fast internet link. It’s a risky, public space. I am not alone in thinking this is be a goldmine for cybercriminals. All that’s needed are the authentication tokens required to access the cloud account, in which case malware changes from a specialist ‘one-hit’ vector tool to a ‘hit-all’, silently and quickly ‘steal everything’ attack.

When asked “How is Chrome OS from a security point of view, better or worse?” Costin Raiu of Kaspersky Labs answered, “it’s better, but much worse.” AJS

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