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Viruses on Chromebook: How to check for and get rid of them

If you’re a Chromebook user, you’ll be glad to know that your device has one of the most secure operating systems on the market. However, no device is immune to all viruses and malware, especially the ones that spread via phishing. Improve your online security by checking your Chromebook for viruses and removing them as soon as possible.

Viruses on Chromebook: How to check for and get rid of them

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Can Chromebooks get viruses?

Yes, Chromebooks can get infected with viruses or malware if there is a breach of the system’s security when you fall for a phishing scam, install malicious apps and extensions, or practice unsafe online habits. Otherwise virus infections on Chromebooks are extremely rare because Chromebooks run the Google Chrome operating system, famous for its built-in security features.

The ability of ChromeOS to withstand most cyber threats relies on its multiple layers of protection, including:

Automatic updates

Software updates patch up security vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit for spreading computer viruses and other types of malware. With a Chromebook, you will never postpone or forget to update your system because all updates are implemented automatically, ensuring your device is running the latest and most secure version.

Data encryption

On a Chromebook, your data is safely kept in the cloud, with only some downloaded files, cookies, and browser cache files stored locally. And even the data stored on your computer is safe from harm because Chromebooks encrypt it using tamper-resistant hardware, making it very difficult for anyone to get their hands on your information.

Sandboxing

Chromebooks run each web page, app, or program in a restricted environment, known as a “sandbox.” A sandbox is a secure, isolated environment within a computer system where code, apps, or programs can run without affecting the rest of the system. So even if you accidentally visit a malicious website containing harmful code, your computer and apps will remain safe.

Verified boot

The verified boot feature protects your Chromebook even if a piece of malware sneaks into your device. The verified boot is a self-check that Chromebook does each time it starts up. It detects if the system has been corrupted in any way and repairs itself by reverting the operating system to a previous version of the OS. After the repairs are done, your ChromeOS is as good as new.

Recovery mode

If someone tampers with your Chromebook or you suspect a malware infection, you can initiate a recovery process. You can boot your system to recovery mode by either pushing a button or using a keyboard combination to enter the recovery mode and restore your device’s ChromeOS to a clean state.

All of these security features protect Chromebooks from viruses, Trojans, worms, adware, and bloatware. However, Chromebook users should be aware of some other cyber threats – read on to find out what they are.

Security risks for Chromebooks

Even though ChromeOS is considered more secure and better protected from known computer viruses than traditional operating systems, Chromebooks are still vulnerable to some cyber threats like spyware, ransomware, and other forms of malicious software.

The different ways that malware might infect your device have one thing in common – the human factor. This means that malware infections happen when Chromebook users fall for social engineering scams, such as phishing scams, or maintain unsafe online habits. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can compromise your Chromebook security:

Phishing attacks

Scammers send deceptive emails and messages pretending to be trustworthy entities to trick users into disclosing personal information or credentials. Cybercriminals also create malicious websites to steal sensitive information from unsuspecting visitors who type in their login information and credentials thinking they’re using a reliable service.

Phishing scams succeed when users willingly disclose their information, so the device’s security measures can’t mitigate or prevent this type of threat.

Malicious Android apps from untrusted sources

Google offers only approved apps and extensions in its official Google Play Store. These apps, vetted by Google, are safe to download and use. But if you use third-party app stores, you are risking downloading a harmful Android app that contains malicious code that will infect your Chromebook with malware.

Malicious Chrome extensions

You are also risking your device’s safety by downloading browser extensions from outside the Chrome App Store. Browser extensions that have not been approved by Google might be malicious and infect your device with malware, spyware, ransomware, and other forms of malicious software. They might also ruin your browsing experience by flooding your screen with ads and annoying pop-ups.

Enabling Developer Mode

When you enable Developer Mode, you gain more control over your system, allowing you to sideload apps, access command-line tools, and make other modifications. Unfortunately, enabling Developer Mode disables or weakens the system’s verification checks and allows the execution of code that hasn’t been approved by Google.

With Developer Mode enabled, attackers can more easily install unverified software or malware on your device. So think twice before enabling this mode and weakening some of the built-in security features.

Cloud data breaches

Since Chromebooks heavily rely on cloud storage, breaches in cloud services could potentially expose your data. That’s why it’s so important to stick to secure cloud storage practices, such as using strong passwords and two-factor authentication.

How to check for viruses and malware on a Chromebook

Checking for viruses and malware on your Chromebook is relatively easy. You can do it by installing a reliable antivirus software and running a system scan, checking Chrome extensions, and checking Android apps and their permissions.

Install antivirus software and run a scan

One of the best ways to check for viruses on your Chromebook is to use reliable antivirus software. Do your research, download antivirus software, and run a full system scan. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Find a reliable antivirus software and download it on your Chromebook.
  2. Install the antivirus software.
  3. Run a system scan to detect viruses and malware on your device.

Check your Chrome extensions

If you’ve ever installed extensions from outside the Chrome Web Store, they might be spreading malware, injecting ads, and disrupting your browsing experience. You should check if you have any malicious Chrome extensions on your Chromebook.

To check your Chrome extensions, open Google Chrome, click the three dots in the top-right corner, and choose “Settings.” Then click “Extensions” and check the list for suspicious ones.

Check your Android apps

If you have any Android-based apps from third-party stores on your Chromebook, they might be causing privacy and security issues, maybe even stealing your sensitive data. In the corner of your screen, select the Launcher and inspect your apps for suspicious ones.

How to get rid of viruses on a Chromebook

If your Chromebook is running slow, keeps crashing, or your browser screen is flooded with ads and pop-ups, your device might be infected, so you’ll have to get rid of viruses and malware.

You can remove most types of viruses and malware from your Chromebook by using reliable antivirus software, removing malicious browser extensions and apps, or, if neither of these methods work, resetting your Chromebook to factory settings.

Use antivirus software

One of the ways to get rid of viruses and malware on your Chromebook is to use reliable antivirus software. Download the antivirus and run a full system scan. Once the scan is complete, follow the on-screen instructions to remove the malicious software.

Remove suspicious browser extensions

Malicious extensions might cause your browser to slow down or act unusually, like displaying excessive ads or annoying pop-ups. If you are having these difficulties, remove the extensions that you’ve downloaded recently, around the time your browser started acting up.

Go through the list of your Google Chrome browser extensions and remove suspicious or fake browser extensions you’ve downloaded from outside the Chrome Web Store:

  1. Click the three dots in the top-right corner and choose “Settings.”
  2. Click “Extensions.”
  3. Click the “Delete” button for each browser extension you want to remove.

You can also enable Chrome safe mode to enable a version of Chrome browser without any extensions running in the background.

Remove suspicious Android apps

If you started having problems with your Chromebook after you’ve downloaded a third-party app, this probably means the app contains malicious code. You can follow these steps to delete malicious Android apps:

  1. In the corner of your screen, select the Launcher.
  2. Right-click the app you want to remove.
  3. Select “Uninstall” or “Remove from Chrome.”
  4. Select “Uninstall.”

Enable Google Play Protect

Make sure you enable Google Play Protect. This feature runs a safety check on apps from the Google Play Store before you download them. Google Play Protect also checks your Chromebook for potentially harmful apps from other sources. If it finds a malicious app, it may deactivate or remove it from your device.

Here is how you enable Google Play Protect:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app.
  2. Tap the profile icon at the top right.
  3. Tap “Play Protect,” then “Settings.”
  4. Turn “Scan apps” with Play Protect on.

Perform a factory reset

If none of the above solutions work, you might perform a factory reset, also known as a Powerwash on a Chromebook. But please note that a Powerwash is an extreme measure because aside from removing malware from your device it will also erase all the data, including files, settings, and apps, restoring the system to its original factory state.

Don’t forget to back up important data and files to Google Drive before performing a factory reset. And be careful about what programs and apps you reinstall to avoid reintroducing the same malware onto your device.

How to protect your Chromebook from malware

It’s always better to take a proactive approach to protect your Chromebook and the data that it stores than deal with malware infections. Here are some tips that will help you keep your device safe:

  1. Don’t use the Developer Mode. The freedom that the Developer Mode gives you rarely ever outweighs the risks associated with weaker security. We recommend never enabling this mode unless you are a highly experienced user or an IT professional.
  2. Check app permissions before installing. Find out why the app requires specific permissions. Don’t install the app if it demands permissions to access your data that is not relevant to the app’s functioning.
  3. Check your Chrome extensions. Check the reputation of the extension developer, read some reviews and ratings, and review its permission requests. If an extension asks for permissions that don’t seem necessary for its functionality, treat it as a red flag.
  4. Use Threat Protection Lite. This advanced malware protection tool from NordVPN blocks malicious and phishing domains, as well as some intrusive ads that might infect your Chromebook with malware and ruin your browsing experience. You will not stumble upon any more phishing websites by accident once you enable Threat Protection Lite on your device.
  5. Use a VPN. You can secure your online traffic on your Chromebook by downloading a reliable VPN app. It will protect your online traffic when you’re using Wi-Fi networks. Even if a cybercriminal infiltrates the network, they won’t be able to steal the data you are exchanging over the network. A VPN also increases your privacy by hiding your IP address and online activities from any snoopers.

Awareness and cautious online behavior can mitigate most of the cyber threats that Chromebooks face, while advanced tools like Threat Protection and a VPN add an extra layer of protection and privacy. So stay vigilant and stay safe!

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