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Google: Problem fixed
No.1 search engine says flaw discovered by Rice University scientists found has been fixed.
December 20, 2004: 3:04 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Google Inc. said Monday it has fixed a software flaw that could allow hackers to view information contained on personal computers running the No. 1 search engine's desktop search software.

"We were made aware of this vulnerability with the Google Desktop Search software and have since fixed the problem so that all current and future users are secure," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters.

The flaw, discovered by Rice University computer scientists, was first reported by the New York Times on Monday.

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 paper 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 Times.

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

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Google's desktop search software was introduced in beta, or test mode, two months ago in order to give PC users the ability to quickly search through their hard drives for e-mail, files and other information.

Google's desktop search program displays information retrieved from the PC hard drive alongside search results in a Web browser, and the software flaw would allow a hacker to exploit that feature, an assistant professor and two graduate students at Rice University discovered, according to the New York Times article.

Desktop search is the latest battleground between Google (up $4.94 to $185.02, Research) and its two main search rivals, Microsoft Corp. (Research) and Yahoo Inc. (Research). Microsoft recently launched a preliminary version of its desktop search tool and Yahoo is planning to debut its own tool next month.  Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to the story

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