How to Enhance Your Security on Chrome OS

Andrew Orr Informative Internet Guides

Chromebooks are lightweight computers designed to run Chrome OS, an operating system made by Google and based on the Chrome browser. Unlike other operating systems where browsers run on top of the OS, with Chromebooks Chrome IS the OS. Chrome OS is already pretty secure, but there is still more you can do as a user.

Further Reading

Six macOS Tips to Supercharge your Security

InfoSec 101: How To Boost Your Privacy On iOS

Default Security

Chromebooks tend to be more secure than other computers because there are fewer attack vectors. Using the principle of “defense in depth”, Chromebooks give you multiple layers of protection.

  • Automatic Updates: With your Chromebook automatically updating itself, your computer will always have the latest malware updates and security fixes.
  • Sandboxing: With Chrome OS, every web page and application opens in a sandboxed environment. That means even if your browser gets directed to a web page that may be infected by malware, it cannot spread to other tabs or apps. It runs inside of a quarantined environment.
  • Verified Boot: Every time your Chromebooks starts up, it does a self-diagnostic check to see if anything altered the operating system. If it has, the Chromebook can automatically repair itself by downloading a fresh copy of Chrome OS. So, even if a computer virus escapes the sandbox to infect other parts of the machine Verified Boot will protect you.
  • Encryption: Chromebooks are meant to be cheap alternatives to traditional computers, and don’t have much onboard storage. They rely heavily on the cloud, such as Google Drive. Everything ChromeOS stores locally is encrypted by default using tamper-resistant hardware. ChromeOS uses local storage for downloaded files, browser cookies and cache files.
  • Recovery Mode: If you find that something goes wrong while using your Chromebook. Boot into Recovery Mode and restore Chrome OS to a previous version.

Enhanced Security

To make Chromebook even more secure, follow these steps to lock down your machine. Depending on your situation, most Chromebooks can be used as “burner” devices. Similar to cheap prepaid phones.

Guest Browsing

If you share your Chromebook with other people, turning on guest browsing gives you an extra layer of security. With this feature, other people can use your Chromebook using temporary browsing sessions. Moreover, you do not have to worry about them accessing your data or downloading apps. When a guest user logs out, Chrome OS completely deletes their session. Automatically erasing browser history, cookies, downloaded files and saved passwords. Even if you are the only person who uses your Chromebook, using guest browsing ensures that absolutely nothing of your data remains on the device between each browsing session. To turn it on:

  1. Go to Settings by navigating to the bottom right of your screen and clicking your picture, or by opening a tab in Chrome and typing chrome://settings.
  2. Scroll down to the Users section and click on Manage Other Users.
  3. On the screen, click the box next to Enable Guest Browsing.
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Restricted Sign-In

This feature lets the Chromebook owner control which accounts can log onto the device. Access can be restricted to the owner account, or limited to the accounts of family and/or friends. To turn it on:

  1. Go to Settings, scroll down to Users and click on Manage Other Users.
  2. A couple of entries under Guest Browsing, click the box next to Restrict sign-in to the following users.
  3. You can then add users by name or email address, and only those people besides you will be able to use your Chromebook.
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Hide Your Login Details

To make it harder for other people to break into your account, you can select the option to hide your username and password from the login screen, so you have you manually type it out. To turn it on:

  1. Go to Settings, scroll down to Users and click on Manage Other Users.
  2. Right between Guest Browsing and Restricted, click the box next to Show usernames and photos on the sign in screen – or rather, remove the checkmark there.

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Add-Ons & Extensions

To further increase your security, there are a plethora of browser apps and extensions you can download from the Chrome Web Store. Download these to get started:

  • Privacy Badger: Developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this extension blocks trackers. You can choose to accept cookies and whitelist certain websites. Additionally, you can control which permissions websites can access, like your location, microphone, camera, etc. Download it here.
  • HTTPS Everywhere: Another great extension by the EFF, this forces all websites you visit to use HTTPS, which is more secure than HTTP. Download it here.
  • DuckDuckGo: If you prefer not to use Google search or other Google services, you can use DuckDuckGo instead. The company respects your privacy, and it does not track your search history. Download it here.
  • Signal: Is an encrypted messaging platform we really like. Open Whisper Systems fabulous MMS, SMS and voice messaging system that Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier have publically endorsed is available on the Chrome Store. If you have not tried it yet we highly recommend it. You can download Signal here

Conclusion

The next time you use a Chromebook or the Chrome browser, you can be assured that you and your data are safe as you browse the web. It doesn’t have to be hard to secure your devices, and by using our tips, you will be well on your way to becoming a privacy guru.