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Can Chromebooks Get Viruses? Comprehensive Guide on Security & Protection

Yes, Chromebooks can get infected by viruses and malware but it is extremely rare thanks to their multilayered security architecture. While Chrome OS has robust builtin protections, Chromebooks are still vulnerable to threats like phishing, malicious extensions and compromised Android apps.

Having a reputable antivirus provides an extra layer of defense for maximum safety. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore Chromebook security, risks, the best antivirus software and provide tips to keep your device infection-free.

How Secure is Chrome OS?

Chromebooks run Chrome OS, an operating system designed with security as a top priority. Multiple defenses work together to create an ultra-secure environment that blocks most traditional virus attacks:

Automatic Updates

Chrome OS is constantly improved by Google with security patches and feature updates. These are immediately pushed to all Chromebook users automatically. This ensures you are always running the most secure Chrome OS version without any effort on your part.

According to research from antivirus testing lab AV-Test, over 200 updates were released in 2021 to fix security flaws in Chrome OS. Staying updated is key to preventing infection attempts using older vulnerabilities.


A sandbox isolates each app and browser tab into its own enclosed space. Even if malicious code somehow finds its way onto your Chromebook, it cannot escape the sandbox to infect other parts of the system.

Viruses are prevented from spreading beyond the app level. According to Google, this innovative sandboxing technique makes Chrome OS much more secure compared to traditional operating systems.

Verified Boot

Every time you start your Chromebook, it performs a self-check called Verified Boot. This scans for any system corruption, compromised settings or tampering with the operating system files.

If any issues are detected, Chrome OS will automatically repair itself to regain its secure state. This prevents any persistent infections from surviving restarts.

Data Encryption

Your local data like downloads, cookies and browsing history is encrypted by default using tamper-resistant hardware. This makes it extremely difficult for viruses to access and steal sensitive personal information.

Recovery Mode

As a last resort, you can restore your Chromebook to a clean factory settings state in seconds using Recovery Mode. Just press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R during startup. This will wipe your system and remove any advanced infections.

According to website CVE Details, Chrome OS only has 46 known vulnerabilities currently, compared to 588 for Windows 11 and 3,101 for Mac OS X. The layered security of Chromebooks makes them highly resistant to viruses and cyber attacks.

Security Risks Facing Chromebooks

While Chromebooks provide much stronger defenses compared to Windows PCs and Mac devices, they are not completely immune to infections. Some threats can still break through if you are not careful:

Malicious Websites

Websites infected with malware are a prime threat vector. Browsing to insecure or compromised sites allows cybercriminals to launch "drive-by" attacks to install viruses, hijackers and spyware.

While Google Chrome has good protection against malicious sites, an infected website could still slip through and attack an underlying vulnerability in Chrome OS.

Fake Browser Extensions

Browser extensions require access to read and modify web page content in order to work. However malicious extensions can abuse this privilege to steal data or inject malware into pages you visit.

Such extensions may also change browser settings like default search engine without your permission. Though Google vets extensions submitted to the Chrome Web Store, sometimes fake extensions using names of legitimate apps get approved.

Compromised Android Apps

Chromebooks allow installing Android apps from the Google Play Store for access to millions of mobile apps. While the Play Store has security checks, occasionally infected apps make it past Google‘s screening processes.

Researchers have found malware-laced apps with over 100,000 downloads in the Play Store before being caught. Also, downloading Android apps from third-party stores greatly increases infection risks.

Phishing & Social Engineering

Despite strong technical safeguards, users themselves can be the weakest link in security. A well-crafted phishing email or social media scam could fool someone into downloading malware, entering login credentials on fake sites or sharing sensitive personal information.

Being vigilant is key – Chromebooks cannot protect against poor judgement. Cybercriminals are experts at psychological manipulation tactics.

Vulnerabilities & Exploits

No software is perfect. Like all operating systems, Chrome OS has some vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit to run malware. In 2021, Google patched several "zero-day" flaws being used to attack Chromebooks.

But since the source code for Chrome OS is public, Google‘s security engineers are quick to find and fix any holes. Updates roll out in days compared to the months it often takes other vendors.

While Chromebooks have excellent defense-in-depth, exercising caution is still necessary when browsing the web and installing apps.

How to Check for Malware on a Chromebook

It‘s easy to inspect your Chromebook for any infections:

Review Browser Extensions

Check for any unknown, suspicious or recently installed Chrome extensions. Malware authors often disguise extension names to seem legitimate. Look for typos, generic names or anything out of the ordinary.

  1. Click the puzzle icon in Chrome to open the Extensions menu
  2. Review the list and research any unfamiliar extensions
  3. Remove any unwanted or questionable extensions

Verify Android Apps

Scan through your installed Play Store apps and uninstall anything that seems dubious. Stick to downloading apps only from the official Google Play store and avoid sideloading from unknown sources.

  1. Open the Play Store app
  2. Go to Manage Apps & Devices -> Manage
  3. Review the apps – watch for generic names or sketchy descriptions
  4. Uninstall any unwanted apps

Also check for signs of infection like slower performance, crashes or unexpected popups. If issues persist after removing suspicious extensions and apps, run a full antivirus scan.

Top Antiviruses for Chromebooks

Chromebook users often wonder – do I need antivirus software? The short answer is no – but using a reputable antivirus provides an extra layer of protection in case malware sneaks past Chrome OS‘s defenses.

Here are the top 3 choices for Chromebook antivirus apps based on independent testing lab results:

Antivirus Malware Protection Extra Features Price
Norton 360 99.7% VPN, password manager, backup $100/year
Bitdefender 100% Webcam protection, password manager $40/year
TotalAV 100% VPN, system optimizer $60/year

Norton 360 is the premium offering from cybersecurity leader Norton. It offers maximum virus protection and a full suite of useful extras like a VPN, cloud backup, password manager, parental controls and more.

However it lacks a free tier and has a significant annual cost making it better suited for power users willing to pay for the kitchen sink of features. Norton is trusted by millions worldwide but has a steep learning curve.

Bitdefender takes a balanced approach. It focuses on delivering robust core malware protection with minimal impact on system performance. The interface is simple and easy to use out of the box.

While some advanced capabilities like webcam protection require upgrading to a premium tier, Bitdefender still offers excellent value. Independent tests show it has near-perfect malware detection rates.

TotalAV impresses with perfect 100% scores in malware detection tests. It offers all the essential security tools like real-time scanning, web shield and WiFi security checker while still being lightweight.

While the 6 device limit may be restrictive for larger families, TotalAV is a great choice for individuals seeking comprehensive protection at a reasonable price point.

All three programs are tailored for Chromebooks and offer sufficient core anti-malware capabilities. The decision comes down to your specific budget and needs around extra features.

5 Benefits of Using Antivirus on a Chromebook

Beyond real-time scanning, modern antivirus suites provide a range of additional protections that complement Chrome OS security:

1. Phishing Protection

Antivirus tools can detect fraudulent emails and block phishing attempts. Features like email spam filters, unsafe link warnings and identity theft monitoring provide an added shield.

2. Secured Web Browsing

Malicious sites hosting malware are blocked through web shields. Dangerous downloads are prevented and antivirus can warn you of insecure HTTP connections. Some even integrate VPNs for encrypted browsing.

3. App Risk Monitoring

Play Store apps are scanned for malware or suspicious behavior. Usage patterns are analyzed to detect rogue apps like clipbook trojans before they can steal data.

4. System Cleanup & Recovery

If malware evades Chrome OS defenses, the antivirus can detect and remove the infection from your system during scans. Some even have bootable recovery tools.

5. Extra Online Privacy

Antiviruses boost privacy through features like VPNs to prevent tracking and hide your IP address, ad blockers, tracker blockers and webcam hackers protection.

Having a second line of defense provides peace of mind and protects against unexpected threats. For maximum safety, use Chrome OS security features and antivirus software together.

How to Choose the Right Antivirus

With dozens of options on the market, here are key factors to consider when selecting antivirus for your Chromebook:


Ensure the antivirus fully supports Chrome OS and Android. Desktop-focused antivirus software may not work correctly. Look for dedicated Chromebook editions.

Protection Level

Check independent lab tests for malware detection rates. Paid versions often offer stronger security than free ones. Ensure core phishing and spyware protections are present.

Impact on Performance

Antivirus inevitably consumes some system resources. Favor options specifically optimized for Chromebooks to minimize slowdowns. Look for antiviruses with game/movie modes.

Extra Features

Compare capabilities offered like VPN, firewall, webcam protection, parental controls and password manager. But avoid overpaying for unused features.


The interface design affects your experience. Simple layouts are better for novices while IT professionals may prefer more customization options.

Customer Support

Check availability of telephone, email and online chat support in case you need assistance. Refund policies are also important in case of dissatisfaction.

Price & Value

Factor in your budget but don‘t just choose the cheapest option. Compare capabilities offered at each pricing tier and look for discounts on multi-year plans.

With the right antivirus software, you can rest easy knowing your Chromebook has an impenetrable security shield.

FAQs about Chromebook Security

Can a Chromebook get a virus?

Yes but it is extremely rare due to Chrome OS‘s multilayered defense model including sandboxing, encryption and auto updates. Sticking to the Play Store for apps and practicing safe browsing habits minimizes infection risk.

Do Chromebooks need antivirus protection?

No, Chromebooks are quite secure even without antivirus software thanks to Chrome OS defenses. However, having a secondary scanner offers an extra layer of protection and may be recommended for high-risk users.

Does a Chromebook need security software?

Chrome OS is designed to be secure from ground up without needing additional software. But using antivirus and security tools like password managers and VPNs provides additional benefits and protections.

What are the risks of not having antivirus on a Chromebook?

The risks are low for average users thanks to Chrome OS security. But lack of antivirus may expose high-risk users like corporations to threats like zero-day exploits, malicious extensions and sophisticated malware that could bypass Chromebook defenses.

Can Chromebooks get malware?

Yes, Chromebooks are susceptible to malware, spyware and adware through tactics like infected sites, malicious extensions and compromised Android apps. But the sandbox limits any infection to an isolated environment preventing widespread harm.

The Bottom Line

While Chromebooks provide robust built-in security through multiple measures like sandboxing and auto updates, they can still be infected by determined threats like zero-day exploits, malicious extensions and phishing attacks.

Practicing safe browsing habits minimizes risks but there are no guarantees. Running an additional antivirus scanner adds a critical second line of defense to detect and remove any malware that evades Chrome OS protections.

With both Chromebook security features and a trusted antivirus solution working together, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your device is fully secured on all fronts.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.