How Does Chromebook Security Work?
How do Chromebooks manage to protect themselves so well? To begin, the Chrome OS is based on the Linux OS, one of the most secure operating systems out there. Linux is open-source, which means that anyone can contribute to its development. More people working on it raises the chances that bugs will be caught and fixed before they become problems. By using Linux as a template, Chrome ensures that it has the strongest security of any operating system on the market.
In addition, Chromebooks come with a number of safety mechanisms, each one powerful on its own but also designed to back up the others, creating multi-layered security. These safety mechanisms include:
- Automatic Updating: Chromebook’s antivirus software is always running in the background, and while it’s running, it’s also constantly updating, adding new virus definitions to its library.
- Sandboxing: Chromebook’s operating system is set up so each website and app works as its own individual program, completely separate and walled-off from the rest of the computer. This means that, should you encounter a piece of malware or a threatening website, it will be kept contained, unable to infect the rest of your Chromebook.
- Verified Boot: Each and every time your Chromebook reboots, it performs a complete self-check of the operating system, looking for corruption or any signs of tampering. If it finds anything at all, it automatically repairs the operating system.
- Data Encryption: Any web data not stored in the cloud, including downloads, cookies, and browser cache files, is automatically encrypted in local storage.
- Recovery: Chromebook has a fast, easy recovery option. It only takes a single keystroke or a keyboard combination to reinstall the most recent operational version of your OS.
Prominent Myths about Chromebook
Precisely because Chromebooks are so secure, a number of myths have arisen suggesting that they are invincible to all malware. Not true. As we’ve already pointed out, even Chromebooks have security vulnerabilities. Be careful then, when you come across these impressive-sounding claims.
- Myth: Google Play checks all of its apps, so it’s impossible to download malware through an app.
- Fact: The reality is that malware does manage to show up in the Google Play store from time to time. Just because you got it from the “approved” source doesn’t mean it’s necessarily clean. The same goes for Google-approved browser extensions.
- Myth: Administrator permissions are impossible to obtain fraudulently in Chrome OS, so malware can’t self-install.
- Fact: While the first half of this myth may be true (administrator permissions may be difficult to obtain in Chrome OS), the second half is faulty. Not every example of malware needs full administrative approval to work.6 Therefore, impenetrable administrator protocols can’t offer full protection.
- Myth: There simply aren’t enough Chromebooks on the market to get the attention of malware authors.
- Fact: This myth is especially pernicious, and there may once have even been a seed of truth in it. By far, the operating system that malware authors target the most is Microsoft simply because there are more Microsoft computers on the market. In fact, Microsoft itself boasts that there are one billion PCs in the world running Windows 10.7 In comparison, the number of Chromebooks estimated to have been sold worldwide was just 20 million as of 2020.8 However, Chromebook’s popularity has risen over the last five years. While its market share was just .74 percent in 2016, it is currently at 1.72 percent. That’s more than double, and easily enough to get hackers’ attention. Those numbers are easily large enough to get hackers’ attention. Need more proof? Just ask Apple-users. Once upon a time, Apple was considered immune to malware developers. Now the company commands a healthy 17 percent of the market,9 and in 2020, Mac malware development actually outpaced Microsoft two to one.10 Bottom line: Chromebook has escaped the notice of most malware authors up until now, but that won’t last.