Google buys web security firm GreenBorder

Search giant's acquisition may pave the way for safer downloading and use of its portfolio of web applications

Google has bought a web security firm which claims to offer safer surfing by flushing away each session when the browser is shut down.

GreenBorder Technologies' approach to surfing is based on creating a virtualised environment, compatible with Internet Explorer and Firefox, through which a user can surf as normal. However, because the environment runs separately from the user's operating system, shutting it down at the end of a session effectively wipes all the activity that took place within it, including any malware that might have been unwittingly downloaded.

Google remains tight-lipped on the acquisition. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the company would say only that Google was "impressed by GreenBorder's small team of talented engineers and [believes] they can help to build products and features that will benefit our users, advertisers and publishers". GreenBorder, like Google, is based in Mountain View, California.

Andy Buss, a senior analyst with Canalys, told that the purchase could pave the way for safer downloading and use of Google's portfolio of web applications. "Over the last five years, Google has diversified a lot," he said. "With search, content delivery, Google Checkout, Google Earth, their applications division and Google Desktop, they are getting closer and closer to the PC. If you've got that type of level of integration with the desktop, you really want to isolate your browsing capability to avoid compromises."

Buss pointed out that the approach taken by GreenBorder — which derives its name from the green border that surrounds its virtualised browsing window to denote safe surfing — is similar to that taken by vendors who offer "kiosk mode" SSL VPN sessions, such as Juniper Networks. He also noted that Internet Explorer and Firefox were moving towards offering more limited, secure surfing environments.

"It won't stop phishing straight off, but it may alleviate keyloggers [and other such malware]," Buss added. He also said that Google should be able to develop the technology in such a way that it could remember user information — key to Google's personalised approach to search and other applications — while still wiping whatever else went on in a user's session.

Just weeks ago, Google warned of the risks posed to web surfers by so-called "drive-by downloads" — malware such as keyloggers and Trojans.