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Chrome OS has a reputation for being virus-proof. Google likes to boast about how secure its operating system is compared to others. Are Chromebooks really immune to viruses, though? And, if so, how do they achieve this? Allow us to explain.

What Is a Computer Virus?

First, let’s consider what a computer virus actually is. Viruses fall under the umbrella of “malware.” They’re destructive because they inject a code into a file (usually, one that’s executable), and when that file is run, the malicious code is released.

Once the code is released on your system, it can do any number of malicious things, like destroy data, overwrite files, or even replicate itself and spread to other systems.

Typically, though, these viruses target specific systems. So, a virus that infects a Windows EXE file isn’t going to do much on a Chromebook because it’s incapable of running EXE files.

This is why the majority of viruses target the most popular platforms, like Windows.

RELATED: Does Your Computer Have a Virus? Here's How to Check

What Makes Chrome OS Secure?

There are a few features that make Chrome OS more secure than other operating systems. The most important, perhaps, is how easy it is to update the system. Chrome OS is always checking for updates, and they can be installed in a matter of minutes. Being on the latest version ensures you have up-to-date security and protection.

Additionally, Chromebooks perform a sort of self-check every time you reboot. The system checks for modifications that put security at risk. If any such modifications are found, the system repairs itself.

The real secret sauce in Chrome OS’s security is sandboxing. This means every browser window, extension, or Android app runs in its own isolated environment and can’t access the system. So, if a virus does happen to infect one sandbox, everything else will still be safe.

Is Chrome OS Vulnerable to Anything?

Viruses are just one type of malware, though. Chrome OS is vulnerable to others, like malicious extensions, bad Android apps, and phishing sites. You can also put your system at risk if you choose to run an extension “unsandboxed.”

These other types of malware aren’t unique to Chrome OS, though—anyone who uses the Chrome browser or an Android device is susceptible to them. If you install Android or Linux apps on your Chromebook, they create more of a security risk, albeit a small one.

How to Stay Safe on Chrome OS

Below are some tips to keep your Chromebook safe:

  • Watch out for phishing and other scams: Chrome OS is, essentially, just a web browser, so it doesn’t protect you from malicious tricks on the web. For example, you can still be tricked into providing private information to a scam website.
  • Don’t download Chrome extensions from third parties: Google does a pretty good job of keeping the Chrome Web Store secure, so only download extensions from there.
  • Avoid Developer Mode: This can be a powerful tool, especially for running Linux apps. However, it does make Chrome OS more vulnerable, and most people don’t need it.
  • Keep your Chromebook updated: When you see a Chrome OS update is available, don’t put it off—install it as soon as possible to ensure you have the latest protections. Chromebooks do automatically download and install updates, but you often have to reboot to finish the process. Don’t put it off!
Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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