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Do Chromebooks Need Antivirus Protection?

Do Chromebooks Need Antivirus Protection?

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You may have heard that installing Chromebook antivirus is not necessary. We take a look at Chromebook’s security features and see if that’s true.

The supervisor handed Jim a Chromebook and said, “Take this home with you and use it to send me updates. We want to reduce traffic to the office — anything you can do from home helps keep this place safer. When the pandemic is over, I’d like it back in one piece, if possible “.

Jim is great at his job, but his reputation for technical skills is somewhat missing. This should be an enjoyable experience.

Chromebook admin Jim hands him a low-end laptop running ChromeOS. Due to the minimal hardware requirements of Chrome OS, these laptops are usually much cheaper than those running Windows or macOS. Bonus: Chromebooks are easy to use, so people with less tech experience can still navigate with ease.

Not all jobs allow work from home (WFH)—some must visit clients or construction sites. But for those who can afford it, a Chromebook can be an ideal solution for business owners. It’s cheap, fast and as long as you don’t need any complicated or specific software to run it, it can be used for any administrative and web-based tasks, such as reading and sending email, creating progress reports and preparing information for the billing department.

Chromebook security

Chromebooks should come with adequate security built in. But is this really true? Can you use a Chromebook without having to think twice about general cybersecurity and malware protection in particular? Or do you need Chromebook antivirus? Let’s first look at ChromeOS’s pre-packaged security features.

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The security features built into ChromeOS include:

  • Auto update: This is a good feature. There is no argument there. But it says nothing about the frequency of updates or how quickly updates will be available for zero-day vulnerabilities.
  • Sandboxing: Sandboxing is a method of reducing the impact of infection. The idea is that when you close an app or website, the related infection will disappear. While this may be true in most cases, it is wishful thinking that malware authors will not be able to “escape” from sandbox.
  • Verified Boot: This is a check that is done at system startup to verify that it has not been tampered with. But this check does not work when the system is set to developer mode.
  • Encryption: This is an excellent feature that prevents criminals from retrieving data from a hacked, stolen or lost laptop, but it does not protect the system from malware.
  • Recovery: Recovery is an option that you can use to restore your Chromebook to its previous state. While this may get rid of malware, it may also delete important data in the process.

While Chromebooks have many built-in security features, none of them are fully functional. The risk is minimized by design, but any zealous cybercriminal can find his way around the laid checks.

Additional security risks for Chromebook

There are some additional arguments that can be made against using Chromebook antivirus. Chromebooks can download Android apps and run them in emulation mode, which increases their security risks. But additional security protocols should prevent this feature from being exploited. These include the following:

  • Both the Play Store and the Web Store verify apps before accepting them. While this may stop many blatant forms of malware, we find a fair amount of adware and potentially unwanted software on these stores every day. And every now and then, more malicious security threats make their way to the Play Store. Then there’s the fact that many users will be tempted to install apps that aren’t available in Play or Web Stores (yet).
  • It’s impossible to get admin permissions for malware on a Chromebook. While this is true, it does not mean that malware cannot go bad without these permissions. As we discussed on our blog how Chromebooks can get infected, there are many examples of Chromebook malware that are annoying enough without optimizing them.
  • Chromebooks are not that interesting to malware authors. Again, this may be true at some point, but the more Chromebooks there are, the larger their target audience and the more attractive it is to focus on that group.
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Overall, Chromebook antivirus might not be necessary yet, but there are plenty of malware out there that can ruin your Chromebook experience.

Beware of trusting the operating system too much

As we’ve heard in the past (Macs don’t get infected!), some platforms have a reputation for being more secure even when the truth is to the contrary. For example, this year Mac malware outperformed Windows malware 2:1.

Windows devices still dominate the market share and tend to have more vulnerabilities, which for many years made them a bigger and easier target for hackers. But with Apple computers becoming increasingly popular, hackers seem to be focusing more of their attention on the versions of macOS that run them. There is a good chance that as ChromeOS-based systems become more and more popular, the same will happen in this area.

and the browser

And let’s not forget the weak point of any operating system: its browser. Just days ago, Google removed 106 extensions that were found to be spying on users. All of these extensions were deployed by the same criminals and found to be illegally collecting sensitive user data as part of a massive global surveillance campaign.

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Awake Security, which disclosed the findings late last week, said the malicious browser add-ons were linked to a single Internet domain registrar, GalComm.

This campaign and Chrome extensions included operations such as taking screenshots of the victim device, downloading malware, reading clipboard, collecting tokens and user input.

Our advice is that the malware out there today is annoying enough to ensure you install additional protection on any device, including your Chromebook. As Chromebooks become more and more popular, cybercriminals will be looking to take advantage of them as well. It’s better to be safe and prepared than sleeping on your laptop.

Stay safe everyone!


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