Do You Need Antivirus Software for Chromebooks?
by Jim Mendenhall
Tags: Chromebooks, Chrome OS, Chromebook FAQ
No, you do not need to purchase or install antivirus software on your Chromebook. Chromebooks use a combination of automatic updates, process sandboxing, data encryption and a verified boot process to protect from viruses and malware.
While Google has gone out of their way to make Chromebooks as safe as possible from viruses, it is still technically feasible for malicious software to get into your system. Such malware often takes the form of malicious Chrome extensions or bad acting Android apps from the Play Store and can be simply uninstalled.
Here are some of the ways that Chromebooks protect you from viruses.
Each web page and each application runs in its own restricted environment called a “sandbox.” Most of the time, sandboxing protects against dangerous websites and rogue Android applications. Of course, it is still possible for bad sites and apps to do nasty things like collect data on you or try to scam you, but sandboxing helps protect the underlying system from viruses and keeps the bad applications from accessing the data of other apps and web pages.
But what if a virus managed to install itself in the underlying Linux operating system despite the sandbox? What measures protect Chrome OS from system level viruses?
If a virus were to install itself successfully at the system level, it should be caught by the verified boot process the next time you restart your Chromebook. Verified boot compares your Chromebook’s system to a pristine copy of Chrome OS during each boot, looking for any signs of tampering. If anything is out of place, the system is automatically repaired before startup continues.
Most user data that is stored on the Chromebook is encrypted by default. Encryption helps ensure the privacy of your files and browsing data in the case that someone were to steal your Chromebook or access the computer’s storage in an unauthorized way.
If you think that something is wrong with your Chromebook and that it may have a virus, you can always reset things to factory settings by using the Powerwash feature. You’ll want to backup any files you’ve saved to the Chromebook before starting a factory reset as it will wipe the entire drive in the process (files saved in Google Drive should be safe as they are stored in Google’s data centers). Here is more information on resetting your Chromebook to factory settings.
Removing Bad Extensions and Software
Users often mistake adware and malware extensions and apps for viruses. If your Chromebook is acting strangely or showing you ads, you may simply have installed a bad Chrome extension. Take a look at your installed extensions and Play Store apps and remove anything that looks suspicious.