Does Your Chromebook Need An Antivirus?

Chromebook offers a decent level of protection, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. An antivirus might still help to keep your device safe.
Melanie Grano, Author
Yahia Barakah, Editor
Last updated Jul 18, 2022

For years, one of the biggest selling points of Apple devices was that they were much less susceptible to viruses than PCs. A part of the reason was that cybercriminals largely designed their viruses to attack the more popular PC market.

In a world where computers increasingly govern every part of our lives, staying safe online and blocking out viruses is more important than ever. Today, Chromebooks have a similar reputation and are often described as a good option for computer security. This begs the question: do you need an antivirus for your Chromebook?

Let’s explore your Chromebook's security, and when installing an antivirus on your computer may make sense.

In this article
How secure is Chromebook?
Security risks for Chromebooks
5 benefits of a Chromebook antivirus
How to choose an antivirus for Chromebook
Antiviruses that can protect your Chromebook
FAQs
Bottom line

How secure is Chromebook?

Chromebooks operate a highly sophisticated multi-layered defense system and use active measures to make it easier to isolate a computer virus even if they successfully penetrate your defenses. But exactly what is a computer virus?

A virus is a computer program that carries instructions, or a malicious code, which would be executed when the program is launched. Its effects might range from annoying messages to file deletion and information theft.

Chromebook defends against viruses by using several security layers. Each security layer is separate, which means even if a virus breaks through one layer, it might still have several other layers to overcome. These layers include:

1. Automatic updates

Software providers are constantly designing updates that better protect you from being infected by a virus, meaning that the more you update, the more protected you should be.

However, this might be difficult to manage on traditional operating systems as you’d have different pieces of software from different vendors. Each might have a different update mechanism, making staying on top of things challenging.

According to one online survey, just over 40% of people in the US admit to not updating software when they should. We might all be busy, and it might be easier to put off installing the latest update.

Chromebooks, though, manage all this automatically. Come what may, Chromebooks are always running the latest and most secure software version.

2. Sandboxing

No matter how strong security could be, it might be overcome by users making a mistake or visiting a web page that they shouldn’t. Once that happens, a virus might get into your system and cause damage and chaos.

Chromebooks are better equipped to help prevent that by ensuring each page and application runs in a restricted environment known as a sandbox. This reduces the chances of the page affecting other tabs or apps on the computer. The threat would then be blocked off and contained.

3. Verified booting

If a virus finds its way out of the sandbox, Chromebooks still have another trick up their sleeves called verified booting.

When Chromebook starts up, the computer performs a self-check known as verified boot. If it spots something in the system that has been tampered with, it repairs itself automatically, making its operating system as good as new.

4. Data encryption

Most of your data might be stored in the cloud when you use web apps, away from any infection on your actual Chromebook.

However, some files, such as downloads, cookies, and browser data, might still be present on your device. This data could be a target for browser hijackers that attempt to steal valuable information.

But Chromebooks encrypt data with tamper-resistant hardware, making accessing those files extremely difficult.

5. Recovery mode

Even if the other defenses fail, you might still have a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of recovery mode. All you have to do is use a quick keyboard combination to enter recovery mode and restore the system to a previous version that might be safe.

All these security features make Chromebooks much safer than many competitors. According to CVE Details, a database that tracks common security vulnerabilities, there were just 55 vulnerabilities on Chrome OS compared to 1,111 for Windows 10 and a staggering 2,212 for macOS.

Security risks for Chromebooks

Regardless of how strong a Chromebook’s security is, it can’t protect you against everything. There are still some threats that could make it past Chromebook’s defenses. Here are a few of the risks a Chromebook might face:

1. Unsecure websites

A website that isn’t managed or updated regularly could be at risk of being infected with malware or other viruses. Some browsers, such as Google Chrome, might display a warning message telling you the website is not secure.

However, you might run a higher risk of malware being downloaded onto your device if you choose to view the site anyway. While Chromebooks are highly effective at spotting malicious websites, choosing to go past the warning might allow a virus to get through.

2. Vulnerable Android apps

Chromebooks might be safe from malicious apps if you only download your apps from the Play Store, which has a reputation for security.

Google’s Play Store rigorously vets all the apps on its platform to reduce the chance of malicious apps getting onto your system.

However, the Play Store isn’t the only source you could use to download apps on your Chromebook. Using unverified sources may increase your risk of downloading a malicious app.

3. Phishing

Phishing is one of the oldest forms of attack, yet it’s still one of the most effective because it relies on mistakes made by users.

Phishing works by sending emails that attempt to scam you into clicking a link or downloading software. For example, fraudsters may pretend to be your bank and ask you to enter your account information.

If a phishing email is successful, it might download a virus on your computer and run it. Such a virus might cause your computer to malfunction, run more slowly, monitor your activity, or even steal sensitive information.

4. Fake browser extensions

Many Chrome extensions are available on the Chrome Web Store that could help improve privacy, block unwanted ads, or more. However, not all of them are legitimate software.

Many extensions require the ability to scan the website you visit. This ability to scan your web pages gives them access to a vast amount of information, which could be stolen and handed over to malicious parties.

Chromebooks do a great job spotting malicious extensions, but they might not catch everything. You should always be careful about downloading anything from a third-party site.

5 benefits of a Chromebook antivirus

Having an antivirus program gives you another layer of security to catch malware, spyware, and viruses that might bypass Chromebook’s security.

Antivirus protection comes in many different forms and has various layers of security. They can be free or paid, with the paid ones generally offering better protection. Antivirus benefits include:

1. Anti-phishing protection

An antivirus could check for certain red flags that make an email suspicious, then flag it for your attention or block it completely.

A similar key feature several antiviruses have is spam filters, which block any obviously suspicious emails or unsolicited marketing materials to protect you from potential phishing attempts.

2. Internet protection

If you’re browsing the web, insecure websites could potentially host malicious software which might infect your computer. Cybercriminals might use this as an opportunity to intercept sensitive information such as details about your finances or personal logins.

An antivirus serves as an early warning system by scanning web pages and issuing a warning if it detects a problem. Depending on your antivirus functionality, it might provide advanced protection against emerging threats and help you protect financial information when you’re online.

3. App monitoring

Apps are a potential source of an attack on your computer. Security threats include insecure data storage, exposure of sensitive data, and virus attacks.

There are viruses that piggyback on supposedly useful apps to infect your computer. Even reputable apps might be infected and cause problems for your system.

Several antiviruses constantly monitor all apps on your computer, checking for any problems and vulnerabilities. Antivirus software could block the problematic app from running when issues are detected.

4. Secure browsing

Secure browsing could offer more privacy protection and prevent things such as computer cookies from monitoring your activity online. Secure Chrome browsers have a safelist of authorized programs or activities and would prevent any apps or actions that aren’t on that list.

Secure browsing could also issue warnings if you’re about to visit a dangerous site or download a dangerous file. It could even notify website owners if malicious actors compromise their websites.

5. Virtual private network (VPN)

A VPN can protect your identity online, keeping you safe from hackers and snooping agencies. It encrypts your data and hides your online activity from unauthorized viewers by redirecting your browsing traffic through other computers or networks.

Keep in mind that a VPN does not actively prevent viruses, but it keeps your browsing activity private. So, a VPN alone might not provide the full scope of protection you may need online.

How to choose an antivirus for Chromebook

To find an antivirus that works best for your device, make sure to check for:

1. Compatibility with Chromebooks

You naturally need an antivirus that would work with the Chromebook operating system. For added protection, it can be a good idea to find antiviruses that offer additional features above what is already found on your Chromebook.

2. Features offered

Different antiviruses might come at various price points and different features. Make sure you get an antivirus that offers everything you want in its package.

Some antiviruses, for example, could automatically scan your system for threats, while some might wait for you to do this manually. Other features to look for include offering a VPN for secure private browsing, proactive app monitoring, and automatic system back-ups.

3. Level of protection

Different antiviruses offer various levels of protection. Generally speaking, paid antiviruses are likely to offer more protection than free antiviruses. Still, it’s a good idea to ensure you know how much protection you’re getting before making a choice.

Antivirus companies will usually offer different levels of protection at different price points. Most companies display each level's features and the price you would pay.

4. Price vs. value

You might be tempted to choose the cheapest antivirus, but it’s important to balance the price versus value.

There are several free antiviruses, though the level of protection they offer is often limited. Paid antiviruses may range from $10 per month to more than $50 per month for the most advanced ones.

While some options might be more expensive, they could come packed with features, and you’d get more for your money. Given how expensive or time-consuming it could get if a virus infects your Chromebook, you may save money by investing in a good antivirus.

Antiviruses that can protect your Chromebook

If you’re looking for the best antivirus software, here are a few contenders:

Bitdefender

Bitdefender offers ease of use and a good level of virus protection that most people could use, including ransomware protection, a VPN, parental controls, and much more. A free version (which contains ads) is available in the Google Play Store. Bitdefender also offers several annual paid plans:

  • Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android: $14.99/first year (1 device)
  • Bitdefender Premium Security: $69.98/first year (up to 10 devices)
  • Bitdefender Ultimate Security: $99.98/first year (up to 10 devices)

Features can include real-time threat detection, anti-phishing, anti-fraud, a VPN, and vulnerability assessments. Its autopilot setting is great for fixing problems with individual devices.

Norton

One of the biggest names in the business, Norton’s 360 security suite offers feature-rich options and excellent malware detection rates.

  • Norton 360 Standard: $39.99/first year (1 device)
  • Norton 360 Deluxe: $49.99/first year (up to 5 devices)
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select: $99.48/first year (up to 5 devices)

Norton’s features can include cloud backup, parental controls, a VPN, webcam protection, and identity theft protection.

Avira

Avira is a powerful cloud-based tool with a host of top-notch features and security tools. And with outstanding performance optimization tools, it’s a great option for speeding up your device.

Avira has a free Android option available on Chromebook that offers a basic level of protection. Its paid antivirus solutions are geared toward Mac and Windows users only, but the free version still gets you a VPN, network scanner, phishing site blocker, and data breach notifications along with cleaning tools.

Kaspersky

Kaspersky's headquarters is located in Moscow, which might cause you some concern. According to Reuters, the U.S. government warned companies that Kaspersky software could cause harm. However, Kaspersky was previously a highly recommended antivirus solution, so it's still worth considering.

Kaspersky has excellent malware detection rates. Several affordable Kaspersky antivirus packages block viruses and malware in real-time and quickly neutralize threats. A free version of Kaspersky is available in the Play Store. It also offers several paid plans including:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security: Starts at $12.99/year (up to 2 devices)
  • Kaspersky Total Security: Starts at $26.99/year (up to 3 devices)
  • Kaspersky Internet Security: Starts at $23.99/year (up to 3 devices)
  • Kaspersky Security Cloud: Starts at $26.99/first year (up to 3 devices)

Kaspersky’s antivirus suites come with a range of features that could include a VPN, webcam protection, network security controls, and encrypted payments.

FAQs


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Can Chromebooks get viruses?

All computers could get viruses, including Chromebooks. However, Chromebooks only have a small number of vulnerabilities thanks to their multi-layered cybersecurity.


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How do you tell if Chromebook has a virus?

Some of the symptoms of having a virus on your Chromebook might be a slower system, long boot times, missing files, frequent system crashes, or unexpected pop-up windows. If you notice any of these things, running a virus scan is a good idea.


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Why are Chromebooks safe?

Chromebooks run a multi-layered defense system that includes isolating web pages to minimize their risk, boot verification to check for issues every time it starts up, and more. This approach makes it very difficult for viruses to break in or change your system.

Bottom line

So, can Chromebooks get viruses? The short answer is yes. While Chromebooks might have stronger protection than PC or Mac, they’re not entirely immune.

That’s why a good antivirus — even if it’s one of the free versions — could offer an extra layer of protection and added peace of mind.

To find an antivirus you trust, browse the available options online and choose one that offers most or all the features you need. Most antiviruses clearly display their features, allowing you to decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

Once you’ve decided, a simple click on its app in the Play Store should install it on your device. Keep in mind that you might need to restart your Chromebook to complete the installation process and perform an initial security scan to check for vulnerabilities.

Author Details
Melanie Grano
Melanie Grano is a storyteller, with a burning desire to dig deep into all facets of technology. Her motto is: When you "love what you do, you never work a day in your life."