Google recently announced that it is developing its own operating system based around the Chrome Web browser, named appropriately enough Chrome OS. For the past week there have been rumors circulating about a leaked version being available for download. Don't believe the hype. The 'leaked version' is a fake that is not related to Google at all.
Even a trusted source like Gizmodo has perpetuated the myth that Chrome is available. Its tough when there is so much pressure to be the first to publish a breaking news story. Gizmodo recently reported a story of alleged Chrome operating system screen shots, but later updated the story to state that it was verified as a fake. Gizmodo pushed the story of the fake download with a story titled Google Chrome OS Now Available, Go Get It .
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The number of sites and individuals who are propagating the story is lending credibility to the false rumor. A quick scan of Twitter or a quick search of the Web will lead to all sorts of seemingly reputable sources talking about the availability of the Chrome OS beta. Most of the excitement though can be traced back to Gizmodo. It is a trusted source of breaking tech news and it doesn't take much for an announcement on Gizmodo to go viral on Twitter and blog sites.
The site in question appears legitimate in so much as it is actually on the google.com domain. The site lists features like a GNOME desktop, Google Picassa integration, and a Flash Player plugin. It comes complete with a few Google logos scattered about.
However, it is actually a product of Google Sites. Basically, someone created a page with Google Sites which points to sites.google.com and populated it with basic information about the Chrome OS which could be extracted from publicly available details Google has shared, then added a link to download some other completely unrelated tool.
To be fair, the site owner did include a disclaimer at the bottom stating "Chrome OS is not related to Google. Service is provided by SUSE Studio. Seethe license." Google has since disabled the site for violating the Google Sites terms of service.
Chrome sounds like it has promise, although the operating system market is a tough sell that is already filled with dominating players like Microsoft and Apple. Of course, Google hasn't shied away from head-to-head battles with either of those companies in other arenas like Web search, mobile phone operating systems, or Web browsers.
Be patient. The fervor over all things Google is remotely understandable, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Even Google will take some time to develop an actual operating system. When it is actually available, I am sure you will hear about it.
In the meantime, if a guy in a dark alley whispers that he has an early version of Chrome OS available, there is good reason to be suspicious. Google may have shut down this fake Chrome OS site, but others are sure to follow. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck. Check your sources and exercise some common sense before you rush to download a fake, and potentially malicious, Chrome OS.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.