Google advertises that Chromebooks are immune to viruses. We clarify whether this is really true.
Chromebook really virus-proof? The answer
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Chromebooks are currently heavily promoted and marketed as devices that are not affected by viruses, spyware, or other nasty things that can be a problem on Windows PCs. While this is true to some extent, you can still be at risk. We explain what you need to know about viruses and security related to the Chromebook.
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Are there viruses on ChromeOS?
While there are occasional reports of viruses on Chromebooks, this is really very rare. When developing ChromeOS, Google took appropriate measures to ward off malware. This is achieved through a combination of automatic updates for the system, self-monitoring for changes to files during startup, sandboxing of browser tabs so that one tab cannot influence another, and encryption for sensitive data.
Google describes how all of these features work on their Chromebook security page.
So is that the end of the article? Chromebooks are impervious to attacks? Not quite. Although ChromeOS protects itself very well, there are still threats to be aware of if you are to use a Chromebook safely.
Android app malware
For some time now, Chromebooks have also been able to run Android apps. On the one hand, this is great as it makes Chromebooks more versatile, but it also gives attackers a way to attack your system.
If you are using mainstream apps from reputable sources, then there is nothing to worry about. But when you download lesser-known apps, these can be dangerous. In the past, there have been cases where apps looked like familiar apps, but they turned out to be harmful. In this case, your data can be intercepted and passed on to hackers.
We have also seen reports of fake cryptocurrency apps billing users for services they never provide and in some cases they are asked to save your Bitcoin, Dogecoin or the like in the app only to then get the digital money to steal. Of course, this is also an issue for Windows laptops, Android phones, and other devices, and not just Chromebooks.
Above all, you should avoid third-party app stores, i.e. all other stores except the Google Play Store. In other app stores it can happen that the apps are not checked well or not at all. Google itself is struggling with its extensive resources to remove questionable apps from the Play Store. It is difficult for a much smaller third party provider to delete these critical apps. Also, be careful of Chrome extensions. While most are safe, opting for obscure extensions could open up your system to malicious software. Most of them are after your data.
Phishing emails and fake websites
ChromeOS may have many security features built in, but most attackers know that the easiest way to attack the user of a system is. This is why you are still receiving spam emails, for example, warning you that your PayPal / Apple / Google / bank account has been blocked. Here you will be asked to click on the link provided in order to log in and solve the problem.
If you do, a Chromebook can’t protect you from disclosing your information, either. However, from time to time you will see warnings from Chrome advising that the website you are visiting is unsafe or classified as dangerous. If so, heed the warnings and don’t go any further!
It doesn’t take much to create a clone of a real website that looks exactly like the website you were about to visit. If you “log in”, the hackers will have your account information, go to the real website and loot your personal information and money. The golden rule is that you should never click any links in any email or message.
If you receive an email warning you of a problem with your account, just open a browser window, navigate there yourself, and log in securely.
As with phishing scams, using public WiFi can be a real threat. It is possible that a hacker has set up a fake network similar to that of a café, library, train station.
Most reputable websites use encryption to protect your payment information, but there is always a risk that hackers could see other personal information and use it to defraud you or steal your money.
VPNs are one way of protecting yourself against such “man-in-the-middle” attacks because they create an encrypted, secure connection that prevents others from intercepting and understanding your data. So take a look at our guide to the best VPNs and get one if you regularly access public Wi-Fi networks.
Do i need antivirus software for my Chromebook?
If you stick to the top apps on the Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store and you don’t click on dodgy looking emails, and you’re not working in developer mode (if you don’t know what that is, you won’t have it turned on), then Chromebooks are one of the safest devices currently available.
But something can always happen, especially if you rely too much on the capabilities of the device. So if you want to add just a little more protection, you can find several companies that offer antivirus software for Chromebooks. This includes, for example, Malwarebytes for Chromebook and has you covered when using Android apps on your Chromebook. However, you should check with the company before purchasing to make sure the software will work on your Chromebook.
If you don’t already own a Chromebook and believe it’s right for you, check out our review of the best Chromebooks to see which model is right for you.