Do you need antivirus for Chromebook?

By June 8, 2016How-To, News

Have you ever gotten a computer virus or known someone who has? If so, you know how annoying and time consuming it is to deal with. If you’re considering making the switch to Chrome OS or if you just picked up your first Chromebook, you may be wondering: Do Chromebooks get viruses?

We’ve been trained by Microsoft to install antivirus software because Windows gets infected. But there are no viruses for Chrome OS, which means you don’t need antivirus for Chromebook, Chromebox or Chromebase. That doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen on Chrome OS, but we’ll get into that later.

Why doesn’t Chrome OS need antivirus?

For Chrome OS, Google decided to design a secure system from the very start.  That means they coded the operating system to protect itself from exploitation.

The most important security feature of Chrome OS is process isolation. Bad actors want to exploit a web page you are visiting, and then jump to access another tab where you have sensitive information for them to plunder. With process isolation, even if they can compromise one tab, they can’t see what else is on your computer.

The biggest online security worries for your personal laptop today are:

  • viruses that steal your information and slow you down,
  • botnet malware that makes your computer a zombie and then slows it down,
  • and ransomeware that kills your files.

Chrome OS doesn’t get viruses, malware or ransomware because it doesn’t let them download or run. If ransomware did exist for Chrome OS, the damage would be minimal anyway. Most of your files will be stored in the cloud where the ransomware wouldn’t be able to touch them.

This 15 minute video goes into more detail about Chrome OS protections and why you don’t need antivirus.

The game has changed – it’s no longer just about viruses

Don’t throw all caution to the wind just yet though. Spam email and phishing emails are still a concern on any computer. If you click on a link from an email and then type in your username and password onto a phishing site, you’ve still given away your password.

The other risk with any browser (not just Chrome) is malicious extensions or plugins. Unscrupulous developers collect and sell information about websites you visit.

Don’t just install Chrome extensions indiscriminately. Check if it’s from a reputable source, and check what permissions the extension requires.

 

Screen Shot of Chrome Extension Permissions

Navigate to chrome://extensions/ in the browser, and click the Permissions link to check your installed extensions.

Be wary of extension that can read all webpages and alter data on the page. If the extension needs rights like that, investigate the developer a little, and read the reviews.

When something looks wrong

OK, that’s all great, but what if something doesn’t look right? What if your Chrome device is slow, or you’re getting weird pop-ups? If that happens, it’s not a virus – it’s probably a malicious extension. James Welbes over at Chromebook Guide has written a great article about what to do.

What you can do to keep your information safe

So your Chrome device isn’t going to get a virus. Still, you should still take precautions against having your account information stolen.

  • If your bank allows it, use Chrome incognito mode when doing online banking. This can help because it disables your extensions by default.
  • Make strong passwords, and use a different password for every site. Here’s some great guidance on how to do that, and some tools to help from Cloudwards: How to Set Up a Strong Password.
  • Never open spam emails, and avoid clicking links in emails.

I’ll leave you with some online safety tips that work on every operating system. The folks at Stay Safe Online have actionable information to protect your computer and your personal information: Keep a Clean Machine and Protect Your Personal Information.

Kain Young

Author Kain Young

More posts by Kain Young

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Sue says:

    Hello, just had to leave a comment on the article about keeping our information safe. You state “avoid clicking on links in an email”….and yet…..in your newsletter for July…..you have clickable links!! I just find that ironic….should we…or shouldn’t we click…..hmm….??
    I have an older Chromebook….Acer C720, but I do love it. When my Windows 7 desktop is done, I’ll definitely replace it with a new Chromebook!

    • Kain Young says:

      Sue,

      You make a good point. The trick is to link hover on the link in the email and look at the bottom of the browser window to see where the link actually goes. If the link is shortened, use a link unshortener to de-obfuscate it.

  • new to the chrome book world and i have to admit i dont like it at all. to much needed things are left out and i am old school i admit. you say i dont need any kind of protection but my daughter just downloaded something she went to “target” website and now this chromebook has the computererrorfound,xyz and is locking down her regular account. normally i would get malawarebyetes hitmanro or avg but its not letting me download anything because i dont need it! well obviously i do need it. so what advice can anyone give me to get the extra protection??

  • Gillian Millard says:

    Hi i wish i had seen this video before yesterday, my chromebook was frozen after clicking on something that was supposed to be about microwaves on my fb page. I ended up taking it to local pc shop and they couldn’t do it either but did ring the number that was on there and they did want to be allowed to get into my chromebook obviously the shop said no way, the people were foreign speaking (not from UK) This morning i tried to get on again and it was there again but they must have given up as eventually it went and i was able to get on and straight away i cleared all browsing history. Glad about that as we were just about to go down to the police station with it and all details they gave the shop ie phone number website etc.

  • Pssst3 says:

    OK. What about Android running on a Chromebook? Apps like Polaris Office can write and read to local storage and Drive. While malware may not be viruses, what stops rogue Android apps from directly damaging data files?

Leave a Reply