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.