Do you need virus protection on a Chromebook?


Earlier this week I was asked the question “Do I need virus protection for my Chromebook?” by a visitor to Everyday Linux User.

This isn’t going to be the longest article I have ever written but it is something I have decided to write about as it might be a question that gets asked again and again in the future.

Do you need antivirus software on a Chromebook?

The simple answer is no.
The Chromebook is based on Linux but is implemented in such a way that it is very hard to install anything that would compromise your device.
Your Chromebook in the default state allows you to really only use web applications and therefore the applications you use are as safe as the site that they are stored on. Turn off your computer and turn it on again and it will work exactly as it did before.
If anything goes wrong with your Chromebook it is very easy to reset it to the default factory settings and continue where you left off.
This article would be very short if I left it there but I think there are a few more things to consider that you might like to think about.
What if you decided that you wanted to dual boot Ubuntu alongside ChromeOS? Now, because you have turned on developer mode and because you have a different operating system running, your Chromebook is now only as secure as the new operating system that you have introduced.
Ubuntu and other Linux distributions aren’t known for contracting viruses but there has been the odd thing mentioned in the press. I have been using Linux for a long long time and I have never had a single nasty thing happen that is caused by malware, trojans or viruses. Quite frankly there is a lot of scaremongering in the news whenever anything happens on a UNIX or Linux device. 
What you do need to do though is think about how your actions can affect other users. Imagine you receive an email from somebody and it is the proverbial dancing cat style video that makes you laugh and you decide to forward on that email to your friends.
On your Chromebook the video file has either played perfectly well or it has failed due to an error caused by a hidden nasty. If it fails then it is unlikely that you will forward it on but if it plays then you may forward it on to your friends.
Imagine that your friends use an operating system that isn’t very secure and is known for viruses. Your friends open the cat video and for them it downloads and installs something horrific like Cryptolocker. You are going to be about as popular as a flatulent car insurance singing opera singer in a lift.
Just because you can’t catch viruses on your computer doesn’t mean everyone is so lucky or as savvy as you. Of course in reality your friends should have their own anti-virus protection.
Another thing to consider is that just because viruses and malware are no longer issues doesn’t mean you can lower your guard online.
Phishing emails are just as dangerous for Chromebook users as they are for any other computer user. If somebody asks for your bank details and you aren’t sure about the site or source of the person asking for those details then politely tell them to go away.
In theory it is also possible that browser vulnerabilities exist whether you are running on a Chromebook or a Windows 8 computer. 
What I am trying to highlight from this post is that if you use a Chromebook you have given yourself a great chance to remain safe from viruses but it doesn’t mean you should go gung-ho and believe that you are invincible online. 
Thankyou for reading.


  1. I have used Linux distributions, many on the same system, as well as having Windows installed on some of those systems. A few of the Windows systems have been compromised, generally by other people using them, The most common reason I've noticed for systems getting compromised is the downloading of software by clicking on a link. I've seen children getting caught by this often, I have seen adults get caught in identity theft.

    One late night when I got an Email that was spoofing a friend of mine, I unwisely clicked on something the friend sent me; it was not the friend after all. Usually I carefully watch such things, but it was late and I messed up. It was Windows 7 and I had to completely reinstall it to get it to work.

    Same with the other instances. A few times I was able to spend as much as 72 hours to fix them, but generally a reinstallation was the only way. All of the big mess ups, whether by me or others were on Windows platforms.

    Only once, many years ago, I received an Email message while using one of the Mozilla Suite Email systems. It messed up my Inbox. I fixed it by exiting the Email program, examining the Email folders and indexes using text editing tools, then I removed the offending message and its index (outside of the Email program), checked the Email using a command-based Email program to verify it, then logged back into the Mozilla suite, re-indexed my Email, checked it, and it worked. No other damage; no other instances of this kind of problem.

    In about 19 years of on-line, mostly Internet-based use, that was the only "compromise" that was costly that I ever noticed, and it was easily repairable.

    It is less clear whether individuals have ever done anything damaging with information about me that they have located on the Internet; I've had attempted scams, but I've caught them in time. None of them were directly related to Linux usage versus some other system, but they were related to finding out information about me on the Internet, which I believe is a greater risk,

    So as it pertains to a Chromebook or any other device, I'd be less concerned about software damage to the Chromebook or another system, but regardless of which system and which tools I am using, I think the thing to be ever cautious about is identity theft. Watch bank accounts and anything containing financial information and take immediate action if anything is questionable. Definitely investigate!

    Summary: less need to be concerned about viruses or those kinds of things. Spoofing, capturing information, leading to identity theft and/or financial loss are the much larger concerns, and they have little to do with which systems we happen to be using.

    • Sorry for the delay in answering this comment. I have been at the Gadget Show in Birmingham for the past few days.

      You have made some great points. It is very hard to live now without the risk of identity theft. Even if you are 100% careful about the information you keep online you can't legislate for the DVLA, Banks, Government agencies etc losing your data on a train or in a carpark. Every week there seems to be a story about a big company losing loads of customer details.

  2. I have Chromebook 2 I recently received a pop up window saying I may have a virus or a spy something I didn't understand it well what can I do to prevent being spied on and getting rid of the virus because last time I heard the store told me these computers don't get viruses.

  3. An add on my chromebook popped up and a female voice started talking and said You may have a virus on your device. Please call this number to get it removed. And she kept repeating it. It was scaring me half to death! I had to shut the laptop down for it to stop. I am scared that I have a virus on my laptop and if there is any way that I can prevent one. HELP?!?

    • Hi Jennirose,

      Don't worry too much. You can try anyone of the following to fix your Chromebook at any point.

      1. Close the browser and re-open it to see if the ad goes away
      2. Delete all your cookies and other settings within the browser and repeat step 1
      3. Refresh your chromebook to factory settings

      Because no real data is stored on your Chromebook you can't lose anything

    • I got the same pop up message 2 days ago. Clearly states I have a virus and computerized voice screams I need to call a 800 number to have it removed. I tried to close out but I couldnt. Powering down was the only way to escape. So can you tell me how to clear the cookies when I cant navigate to open anything due to the pop up?

  4. Every time I click something an ad pops up in another tab. This is a school chromebook, and I am afraid I really DO have a VIRUS. I am worried that something is wrong. I have tried everything websites have been telling me, but nothing is working. I need your help, please message me. If you can, email me about this at:
    Please help, you are my only hope!!!

  5. you seem very smart I am pretty much dumb when it comes to computers I recently pushed on a virus some how and I got scared I called the support system who mainly wanted money so anyways I ended up power washing I didn't mind loosing my history why after a year beats me so no problems so far till today my daughters brand new HP laptop got one support wanted to charge $149.00 for a year I don't have that kind of money do you think my virus/worm caught on hers? I just don't no what to do thanks.

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