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Security flaws in Google's desktop search tool

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December 20, 2004

A computer scientist and two of his students at Rice University discovered a serious security flaw in Google's desktop search tool, that could potentially cause damages to computers.

The glitch, which could permit an attacker to secretly search the contents of a personal computer via the Internet, is what computer scientists call a composition flaw, the New York Times said.

"When you put them together, out jumps a security flaw," Dan Wallach, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice in Houston, told the newspaper.

Wallach and graduate students Seth Fogarty and Seth Nielson discovered the flaw last month, the report said.

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Google introduced a test version of the desktop search tool on Oct. 14. The program, which can be downloaded at no cost, indexes material on a user's hard drive, like e-mail and text documents. When the user conducts a Web search, the desktop is searched, too.

The company said the researchers had notified it of the flaw in late November and had begun distributing a new version of the desktop search engine that repairs the potential security hole, the Times reported.

Google's desktop search tool has sparked competition with its closest Web search service competitors, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Microsoft made a test version of its desktop search tool available last Monday as part of its MSN toolbar suite, and Yahoo! will begin testing a similar search tool in January.

Source: CNNfn.

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