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One of the most touted benefits of a Chromebook is its security. But are there any steps that owners can take that will improve and enhance the current level of protection?

Google claims that their Chromebook devices are virtually virus free. The machine has been designed using the principle of ‘defence in depth’ – meaning the Chromebook has multiple layers of protection and if one layer is bypassed, others are still in effect.

The existing layers are already very extensive and cover a lot of potential threats. Automatic updates, sandboxed browsing What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One Highly-connective programs can do a lot, but they're also an open invitation for bad hackers to strike. To prevent strikes from becoming successful, a developer would have to spot and close every single hole in... Read More , verified boot and vitally important localised data encryption Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Encryption isn’t only for paranoid conspiracy theorists, nor is it just for tech geeks. Encryption is something every computer user can benefit from. Tech websites write about how you can encrypt your digital life, but... Read More all remove a lot of typical avenues that viruses and hackers use to compromise machines. Of course, even if something does manage to evade all this protection, the Chromebook devices are easy to recover Two Ways To Reformat Your Chromebook: Powerwash & Full Recovery Two Ways To Reformat Your Chromebook: Powerwash & Full Recovery One of a Chromebook's main selling points is its stateless drive's provision of security and stability – but what are your choices when something goes wrong? You have two options. Read More and re-sync.

What additional measures can users take advantage of to further protect their device?

Guest Browsing

While the Chromebook offers many features to help protect your security against hackers and viruses, there is very little it can do to prevent human error. Security can be compromised by something as simple as leaving yourself logged in to a service. Forget to log off your Facebook account How To Log Yourself Out Of Facebook On Other Devices And Improve Your Security [Weekly Facebook Tips] How To Log Yourself Out Of Facebook On Other Devices And Improve Your Security [Weekly Facebook Tips] For many Facebook users, it's good to occasionally brush up on your security knowledge and see if there's a better way you could be doing things. Despite Facebook's tendency to expose your information as publicly... Read More and the next user has your world in their hands, not to mention that the nature of Chromebooks means anyone using your machine is just one click away from your Gmail account – complete with emails from banks, credit card companies and employers.

chromebook-manage-users

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Guest browsing is designed to combat these potential security compromises. It means you can share your Chromebook with other people whilst still keeping your information secure. Guest browsing lets users visit websites and download files, but they can’t install apps and they can’t see any of your data. Guests also cannot create bookmarks (and can’t see your bookmarks) and cannot access apps that have already been installed.

When a guest user logs out the Chrome OS erases all trace of their session, from browser histories and cookies to downloaded files and saved passwords. The feature eradicates the problem of a person have unrestricted access to all your information.

Of course, if you are the only person who uses your Chromebook then leaving guest browsing turned is on is arguably unnecessary. However, if you are living or working in an environment where anyone is liable to pick up your machine and start using it without your knowledge then the feature is a welcome addition to the Chromebooks extensive security features.

Like everything with a Chromebook, enabling guest browsing is a simple straightforward process. Follow the steps below to change your setup:

  1. Select ‘Settings’ from the status area in the bottom right of your screen
  2. Scroll down to the ‘Users’ section and click on ‘Manage other users…’
  3. On the pop-up screen tick the check-box next to ‘Enable Guest browsing’

chromebook-manage-users-2.1

Restricted Sign-In

One of the best features of a Chromebook is that in its purest sense it is just a piece of hardware with no localised personalisation. In practice this means you can log into any Chromebook with your Google account and it will look and feel exactly like your own Chromebook.

The negative of this from a security viewpoint is that you have no control over that sign-in account. Although Chromebooks are virtually virus free there remains the potential for Chrome Web Store apps to become malicious – even an app that was once safe could be sold by the original developer and later turn malicious. A malicious app could insert adverts on webpages and spy on your internet usage.

The restricted sign-in feature allows the Chromebook owner to control which other accounts can log into the machine. Access can be restricted to just the owners account, or limited to the accounts of close friends or family that the owner believes pose no security risk.

chromebook-manage-users-3

To edit the list of permitted users follow the following instructions:

  1. Select ‘Settings’ from the status area in the bottom right of your screen
  2. Scroll down to the ‘Users’ section and click on ‘Manage other users…’
  3. On the pop-up screen tick the check-box next to ‘Restrict sign-in to the following users’
  4. Add the names or email addresses of permitted users in the space provided

Bonus Tip

If you want to use your Chromebook in a public place, or perhaps you work in an office with a BYOD policy Going BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) [INFOGRAPHIC] Going BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) [INFOGRAPHIC] It seems to be the new trend in schools and companies all across the world - BYOD. No, it's not a new type of online computer game but rather Bring Your Own Device. This is... Read More , you might want to conceal your username and picture from the initial sign-in screen in order to help maintain your privacy. To do this simply uncheck the box next to ‘Show usernames and photos on the sign-in screen’ in the ‘Manage other users…’ menu.

Conclusion

The Chromebook is already extremely secure, but if you want to protect your machine and your data beyond the initial Chromebook offering, these tweaks will help you. What do you think? Do you know of any additional security measures that can be taken? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: TechnologyGuide TestLab Via Flickr

  1. Alan
    December 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I have just bought my wife a Toshiiba Chromebook. She previously used a notebook with windows 7. When using online banking with RBS the bank recommended using an additional security Rapport. Rapport does not seem to work with chrome so is it safe to go direct to the banks website and log in and use without Rapport.

    Alan

    • John
      May 16, 2016 at 2:21 am

      Alan:

      I am by no means an expert and have only just ordered my first chronebook, however, my understanding is that practically the whole point of having a chromebook is that it is guaranteed to be virus free. It does not hold any programmes and uses Chrome exclusively for all programmes through the the browser.

  2. josh
    February 21, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I appreciate the tips i saw here, but ine thing that wasnt mentioned is how to prevent physical access to chromebook. say u meet a stranger, that person somehow gets a hold of your chromebook. Now all he has to do is run away. at his home he can powerwash it and use it acting like he bought a new chromebook.

    Is there any way to prevent powerwashing or fsctory reset without user authentication?

  3. Caroline W
    April 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Daniel, thanks so much for your advice, I had a couple of days to mull it over for when my Chromebook arrived - which this morning it did! (along with my Chromecast which is fantastic!!). And I decided on a fresh account as the 'owner' and will add my other accounts that I need making sure to restrict them. Great advice for public using too. Also my Parents can have a go on it (they have XP) so if they like it because of its simplicity, they can decide if it's something they can master. Thank you once again for your article and your help! :-)

    I have a question about using the Chromebook in public. I've never used any device with public WiFi, i don't even really know how to, so have you any advice on the safest way to go about it other than what you mentioned, which would be implemented, I'm just over cautious about using public WiFi, but with my Chromebook, I'd like to.

  4. Caroline W
    April 12, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Hi Daniel. I'm just waiting on the arrival of my Chromebook and I need some advice please. I have 6 Google accounts and each are important and used for different purposes mainly to avoid the privacy issue. I'm struggling to decide which one to use as my initial set up account and how to add all my other accounts and switch between them. I'm even thinking of starting afresh with a new account as none are really for email. A new email address i could set to use g mail as an email service but everyone knows my Yahoo is my primary So,how should I go about things like setting it up and adding all my Google accounts?. Can you help with some advice please?

    • Daniel Price
      April 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Caroline,

      You can change between accounts through the browser, just like you would on a normal machine, and you can also add as many log in profiles as you want - so don't think that whichever account you choose will limit your accessibility.

      You do, however, need to choose one account to 'own' the machine. For ease, I would use whichever account you use most often, because that account will be the one that a) manages the machines settings and b) automatically links to the machine's Gmail, GDrive, etc shortcuts.

      I would only use a personal account for this purpose, so I if you use any of the six for work I wouldn't use those. That's just my personal preference though...

      You could also make a new account and forward your Yahoo email to that account so you can easily see it. However, in my opinion, its a bit unnecessary.

      If you choose one method then change your mind, you can do a 'powerwash'. You will lose local data, but your cloud data will automatically resync and you will be able to choose a new account to 'own' the machine.

      Daniel

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