If Chromebooks were to pen a résumé, somewhere at the top of the list of skill sets would be security. The combination of cloud-based services and multi-layer protection make Chrome OS one of the most secure operating systems on the market.
On almost a weekly basis, users in the Chromebook Central help forum come to find answers about antivirus protection and malware removal for their Chrome OS devices. The great news is virus and malware protection are baked into Google’s Chrome OS, and today we are going to cover all the ways your Chromebook keeps you safe from the issues that plague other platforms.
Viruses and Malware
The short answer to protecting your Chromebook from malicious software is: you don’t have to. True viruses and malware are executable applications that infect operating systems in various ways for various reasons. Some may be as simple as tracking your online activity for advertising purposes. Others, however, are designed with the intent purpose to wreak havoc on systems, hijack sensitive information or disable devices completely.
Any way you slice it, these “programs” are unwanted and make computing a treacherous and unsavory undertaking. This is where Chrome OS shines. Executable programs can not be installed on a Chromebook. This not only protects your device from getting a bad case of the nasties, it also keeps the system running smooth.
That doesn’t mean you’re completely invulnerable on your Chromebook, but rest assured you are in the clear from most online threats. There are some non-traditional issues you may come across on a Chrome OS device and we will cover them in just a moment.
First, let’s cover the ins and outs of how Google keeps Chrome OS in tip-top shape in the realm of security. Using what Google refers to as “defense in depth”, these are the many methods that Chromebooks use to keep you and your personal information safe.
Roughly every six weeks the Chrome team releases updates to the operating system that include the latest security patches (to guard against new-found threats). These updates are fast and install seamlessly due to the uniformity of the Chrome OS system. Without the burden of third party software, updates can be released without the chance of conflicting software issues.
Each web page and application runs in a restricted environment called a “sandbox.” If the Chromebook is directed to an infected page, it can’t affect the other tabs or “apps” on the computer, or anything else on the machine. The threat is contained.
When your Chromebook starts up, it does a self-check called “Verified Boot.” If it detects that the system has been tampered with or corrupted in any way, typically it will repair itself without any effort, taking the Chromebook back to an operating system that’s as good as new.
Chromebooks store all important data safely in the cloud, but certain kinds of files like downloads, cookies, and browser cache files, may still be present on the computer. The Chromebook encrypts this data using tamper-resistant hardware, making it very difficult for anyone to access those files.
All of these measures combined make Chrome OS a very safe, tamper-resistant platform for users. Unfortunately, like with most technology, the bad guys will always try to do bad things.
If you are a Chrome OS or Chrome browser user, you most likely have installed an extension from the Chrome Web Store. These built-in “applications” make life a little easier by integrating tasks directly into your browser. Sadly, there are some extensions out there that can have ill effects on your Chromebook. It may be a malicious attempt to “hijack” your browser or something as simple as an out-of-date extension that’s just plain broken. Either way, the task of finding and removing may be an annoyance and a little time consuming, it’s a simple task.
Settings>People>Advanced sync settings
From there, change “sync everything” to “choose what to sync” and deselect extensions.
Hit ok and scroll down to click “show advanced settings.” All the way at the bottom of the page you will find “reset settings.” Click it. Don’t worry, this will not delete any local data, passwords or bookmarks. Now all of your extensions will be disabled. From there you will want to go through and enable each of your extensions one at a time until you can duplicate your problem. Once you’ve found, it you’re good to go. On the extensions page, you can delete the naughty culprit and go about your day stress-free.
This fun little headache happens when a website contains Malware and attempts to redirect you or “ransom” your browser. Often it will come in the form of purchasing a bogus antivirus software to unlock your device.
DO NOT PAY ANYONE ANYTHING!
To fix the problem, a simple device reset will do the trick. For most Chromebooks, simply press the Refresh and Power buttons. After your device restarts, you will be asked if you want to restore your previous browsing session.
Simply dismiss the message and go about browsing as usual, obviously avoiding the site that caused the problem. For a full list of reset methods check out the Google Support Page.
For the record, I have used Chrome OS exclusively for almost three years and have never had one of these issues arise. All-in-all, Chromebooks provide a safe, secure computing environment. If, for any reason, the steps above don’t resolve an issue, you can get help by pressing Ctrl + ? and clicking contact support.
We hope this guide shines some light on the many ways Chrome OS prevents your device from being tampered with, hijacked or infected. Rest assured, Chromebooks lead the way when it comes to protecting their users.