Chromebook Security: 8 Ways to Keep Your Information and Laptop Safe

Try these Chromebook tips and tricks to secure your machine

Chromebooks are inherently secure laptop computers. But if you're worried about your Chromebook security there are a few things you can do to make them even more secure if they're lost or stolen. Plus, you can help protect your computer from threats that are common on the internet. We'll show you how.

01
of 08

Start With Your Google Account

Laptop on a table with a login screen

Pixabay 

Chromebooks run off of your Google account. Everything from logins, to cloud storage, to email go through that. In short, your Chromebook is only going to be as secure as your Google account.

First, make sure you are using a strong password. The password for your Google account is also your password for your Chromebook. Experts suggest using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, along with non-alphabetic characters, such as numbers or symbols. Others suggest using a passphrase rather than a password.

It's also a good idea to use two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your account. 2FA requires that you confirm all logins with your phone before the login is successful. It's a great thing to have enabled for your account for maximum safety.

While 2FA will prevent others from logging into your Google account with a Chrombook, it will not prevent someone from unlocking a Chromebook that is asleep.

02
of 08

Manage Your Logins

Click the clock, then the settings cog.

Another way to make sure your Chromebook stays safe is to control who can log into it. Click on the clock in the bottom right corner of the screen, then click the settings cog. Select Manage other people and turn on the toggle for Restrict sign-in to the following users.

Without this toggle, anyone can log in and use your Chromebook as if it was theirs. By locking the Chromebook down to select users, your lost Chromebook is less useful to others who may be inclined to log in with their own account.

Also in this area is another toggle you can turn on to Enable Guest browsing.

With this option turned on, anyone can access the Chrome browser and use it without logging in at all. However, the account is destroyed when they leave––no files, bookmarks, or web history is retained. It's a good way to let someone borrow your Chromebook without giving them the ability to make any changes to it. Alternatively, if you really want to lock the Chromebook down, you can turn this toggle off.

03
of 08

Update Chrome OS

An older man using a Chromebook.

@bjjohnson714 via Twenty20 

By default, your Chromebook will automatically check for and download the latest updates to Chrome OS. When you are prompted to install an update, it's a good idea to do so. Failure to do so can leave your Chromebook at risk of security intrusions without the latest security patches. As secure as Chromebooks are, vulnerabilities can be exploited if they are not patched quickly. Updating Chrome generally only takes a few minutes, so it's not an inconvenience.

If you want to check for updates manually, you can do so by clicking the clock > Settings cog. Then click the hamburger menu (three lines stacked on top of each other) > About Chrome OS, and select Check for updates.

04
of 08

Sleep Locking

A Chromebook displaying lock screen options.

 Pexels

When you walk away from your Chromebook or close the lid it enters sleep mode. By default, your Chromebook requires your Google account password or a PIN to unlock. You can set up a PIN by entering settings and clicking Screen lock

When you enter your password to wake up your Chromebook, it does NOT trigger 2-Step Verification, meaning you will not have to confirm the login with your phone as described above.

Chromebooks have six different ways to enter sleep mode, and require a password to unlock:

  1. Click the clock > Lock icon.
  2. Press the Magnifying glass + L on your keyboard.
  3. Close the lid.
  4. Press and hold the Lock button on the keyboard.
  5. Press and hold the power button > Lock.
  6. Walk away from your Chromebook. By default if your Chromebook is plugged in, the screen will turn off in 8 minutes and go to sleep in 30 minutes. If it is not, the screen will turn off in 6 minutes and go to sleep in 10 minutes.

If you leave your Chromebook unattended, it's a good idea to lock it by any of these methods, so no one else can use it.

05
of 08

If Your Chromebook Is Stolen

Laptop outside with a Chromebook manage screen

 Pixabay

In the event your Chromebook is lost or stolen, you can take further steps to secure your information. Start by accessing your Google account and clicking Security > Manage Devices. Click on your Chromebook, and you'll see a list of recent activity, including the latest city and state where it was used. 

From this screen you can sign out of your Chromebook, which won't help you recover the Chromebook, but it will keep your data safe. Your account and all its information will be removed from the device.

The Manage Devices area will give you the option to Find my Device however that only works on phones and tablets running Android, not Chromebooks.

06
of 08

Chrome Extensions Can Help Keep You Safe

Chromebook on a table with a mug

Pixabay

Chrome extensions add a lot of capability to your browser, and by extension to Chrome OS. They can help secure your browser against threats to your security and add a good bit of functionality. Installing extensions like HTTPS Everywhere will keep you on encrypted websites where possible while extensions like Avast Online Security will help keep you safe while browsing on the internet.

07
of 08

Steer Clear of Bad Extensions

Malwarebytes extension in the Chrome store

Chrome extensions powerful. However, because of that, there are bad actors out there who want to do bad things to your computer, and Chrome extensions are an easy way to do that. But you can protect yourself with a little common sense.

  • Only install extensions from the official Chrome extension store. Google scans all extensions to make sure they're safe before they're listed in the store.
  • Before you install an extension, look into the developer. You can typically find the developer below the name of the extension. It will say "Offered by:" followed by a name. Do they have a website, or other web presence, like a github site? If they don't, be wary.
  • Read the entire description of a Chrome extension. It's easy to just skim over the description, but there may be references in there to your privacy, or specific permissions the extension will ask for. Pay attention to the specific permissions the extension wants. Does an ad blocker need access to your location? Probably not. 
  • Read reviews for the extension. If the reviews are all positive and all say basically the same thing, be careful. Paid reviews occur in the Chrome store just like they do on other review sites.
  • Be suspicious of valuable services being offered for free. Remember the old saying, if you're not paying for a product, you are the product.

Permissions are declared in the dialog box that asks you to add the extension. They're not granular - you can either accept all permissions and install the extension, or not.

Finally, there's one last general tip about extensions. Don't install any more extensions than you absolutely need. While Chrome extensions can make your browser or Chromebook a more powerful experience, too many extensions will slow your browser down.

08
of 08

Can Chromebooks Get Viruses?

Woman using a laptop on a bed

 Pixabay

The answer to this question is yes and no, but mostly no. Chromebooks are incredibly resistant to virus and malware infection, mostly due to sandboxing. Sandboxing means that anything that happens in a Chrome tab or application running in Chrome OS happens in it's own little environment. As soon as that tab or app is closed, that environment gets destroyed.

If some kind of malicious software did make it onto the computer, it would be stuck inside whatever app or browser tab it was running in. It would subsequently be destroyed when that app or tab was closed

Further, even if an app managed to get outside of that sandboxed environment, every time you start up a Chromebook, the computer runs a self-check and looks for altered files. If it finds any, it corrects them.

All the being said, most Chromebooks can install apps from the Google Play store which is not immune from malware and other malicious software. Like Chrome extensions, it's important to be mindful of what you're installing, and more importantly the permissions you're giving to those apps.