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The New Year's McAfee Scare

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Right in time for the new year's celebrations, when everyone is finished opening and playing with their presents, McAfee try to drop a bomb.

Google's Chrome OS is going to be hacked.

Covered in both Macworld and Computerworld, McAfee's year end report paints a gloomy picture of what's in store for 2010. Sam Masiello, director of 'threat management' at McAfee, foretells that Chrome OS as well as the new HTML 5 are going to be targeted by organised crime - and the implication is they will succumb as well.

Happy New Year, McAfee.

There are naturally two possible interpretations to this outburst. The one is that McAfee people are genuinely good guys and out of the good of their hearts want to warn the rest of us of impending doom.

So that we can avoid it - with their expert guidance of course.

The other interpretation isn't as flattering. But unfortunately it's the more probable of the two. For if the good people at McAfee were genuinely interested in our welfare, then they'd tell us the little we need to know so we could be safe.

Get off Windows.

McAfee as so many others - Sophos, Trend Micro, Symantec, F-Secure, et al, et al - are in the Windows security cottage industry. They're on the chow line the day Windows becomes secure (which is never) or the day the ordinary Joe and Josephine Six Packs decide they've had enough and pick an alternative platform.

Scaring people that the sky might be falling serves two purposes: it picks up additional (but marginal) income from those running other platforms; and it helps convince current Windows users that there's no point in switching platforms - because, as the scam goes, it's just as dangerous out there no matter the platform - the world itself is evil, the Internet itself is beyond control, criminals are overrunning society no matter what protection, no matter what operating system you use.

Happy New Year.

But of course none of this is true. McAfee as so many others are dependent on the current (rather deplorable) status quo. McAfee and the others need people to be using Windows. They need them to get attacked left and right. They need media stories about little old ladies and major corporations losing identities and millions. They're in a protection racket.

But HTML 5 is an Internet standard. And the people developing this standard don't all work for Microsoft. And Google's OS is a Google product - not a Microsoft product. And it's based on Unix. And it doesn't have backward compatibility issues with legacy technologies in use before the web revolution.

Will hackers attack HTML 5 and Chrome OS? Of course they will. So will security researchers. Everyone will be probing them - black hats, white hats, gray hats. They've been probing Google's GOOS and Unix and Linux for years. They haven't got very far.

On the other hand Microsoft have somewhere between 200,000 and one million strains of malware in the wild. Microsoft's own security 'experts' say that malware today counts for 92-97% of all email traffic.

That's pretty damning.

All McAfee's Masiello has to do is recommend people abandon Windows. Almost every security guru in the world has been recommending this for years - except the so-called 'experts' in the Windows antivirus industry.

As always: follow the money.

But he won't do it. You can wait all the way through 2010 for a mention of switching platforms from any of those companies and New Year's Eve 2010 will roll around before you know it.

See Also
Macworld: Google Chrome OS may be security hotspot in 2010
Computerworld: Google Chrome OS may be security hotspot in 2010

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