Google is phasing out the use of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems on its company computers because of ongoing concerns about security, the Financial Times reports.
Google staff will instead be asked to use Apple’s OS X operating system, or an open-source Linux platform, as the search giant tries to close the security loopholes that made it possible for Chinese hackers to gain access to email accounts. Security experts believe the hackers exploited a loophole in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser to hack in to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists and Chinese dissidents.
“We’re not doing any more Windows,” one Google employee told the FT. “It’s a security effort.” Another said staff had been “moved away from Windows PCs. following the China hacking attacks”.
Google, which employees around 10,000 people worldwide, is already encouraging new joiners to opt for Linux or OS X. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” another member of staff told the FT. “Microsoft, we don’t feel so good about.”
Google has not commented specifically on the rumours. “We’re always working to improve the efficiency of our business, but we do not comment on specific operational matters,” said the company in a statement.
Microsoft has also refused to comment on the speculation.
Those members of staff who wish to continue using Windows on their machine will need clearance from “quite senior levels”, according to the FT, but employees would have been more upset if Google had banned Macs running OS X rather than PCs running Windows.
The move highlights a growing tension between Google and Microsoft, which are competing in an increasing number of areas. Google is launching its own computer operating system, Chrome OS, to go head-to-head with Windows, while Google and Microsoft both have their own mobile operating systems. The recent launch of Microsoft’s Bing search engine was an attempt to claw back some market share from Google, while both companies offer free web-based email and instant-messaging services.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that Linux and Mac OS X are more secure than Windows, but I do think it’s reasonable to claim that they’re safer because of the much smaller number of attacks that target the platforms,” said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with security specialists Sophos. “It’s a bit like deciding where to go on holiday – Baghdad or Bournemouth? You can come to a sticky end in either, but I know where I would rather be to reduce my chances.
Furthermore, with Google Chrome OS around the corner, this could be the first step towards Google proving that an enterprise company can survive without much dependency on Microsoft at all.”