. . . Tuesday December 21, 2004

The Dangers on the Desktop

A couple of weeks ago, Google fixed a security flaw in their desktop search tool that could have enabled outsiders to get a glimpse of some of your personal information. The security hole was found by Professor Dan Wallach and a couple of grad students doing a research project at Rice University.

Two key points arise out of the finding and fixing of the security flaw. First, Google and everyone else got a very stark reminder of the potential dangers one finds when entering the waters of internet enabled desktop apps, especially ones that have the potential to be wildly popular and are therefore likely to become the targets of hackers.

Second, we see once again that outsiders with no direct connection to a brand or its software managed to find a flaw (before the bad guys did) and notify the company about it. Google quickly patched the hole and explained: “We were very thankful to Mr. Wallach and his team for working on it.”

This was a small flaw that likely would never have been found (other than by hackers) if the testing and research had been limited to those directly connected to Google. The crowd protected itself and the company and its customers benefited.

We’ve seen this countless times when it comes to software. In light of the recent discoveries about Celebrex, Vioxx and other prescription drugs, it will be interesting to watch as the the broader population begins to use the internet as a vehicle to share information about products and services outside of the realm of technology.

We create demand. We assess needs. We find flaws. We create fixes. We market products.

We are Generation We.

Concentration is important!