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How Secure is Chrome OS?

During Google’s annual conference for developers recently, the technology monolith announced its plans to launch its Chrome OS to the world in June. Touting a plethora of cloud-based features, Google is claiming that its operating system requires no virus protection to remain secure. If we have learned anything over the many years that we have been on the Internet, building a bulletproof operating system is not possible.

In today’s world, any website may be infected with malicious software (malware). By visiting an infected web page, ordinary computers become infected, and the chain continues. Personal data, financial information, and passwords can be taken when malware exploits flaws in your browser. Google claims that Chromebooks have the first operating system designed to fight this ongoing threat. It uses a “defense in depth” approach to provide users with multiple layers of protection so if one is bypassed, others are still in effect.

The most effective form of protection is to ensure that the software on your computer is up-to-date, and that the latest security firmware is on your machine. Simply put, system updates prevent new malware from attacking your computer. The sporadic nature of traditional operating systems with many software components from many vendors can become difficult to use because of the different apparatuses and interfaces. In addition to this, the majority of users will not immediately download any given update. One of the best aspects about Chrome OS is the fact that every time the computer turns on, it is completely updated. This is because it is constantly connected to the web, a feature that gives Google the ability to patch the security features of its operating system on the fly.

On any given Chromebook, each web page and application that users visit is housed within a separate “sandbox”. This is a restricted environment that prevents infected pages from affecting the other tabs or pages you are running on your computer. This contains any potential threats, isolating them from sensitive personal data and information. This principle is applied to Google’s server on a large scale as well. Any infected web apps can be isolated on Google’s servers and individually dealt with to ensure that the smallest number of users are affected by any given security threat.

If malware were to infect your computer, escaping the sandbox, a device running Chrome OS would still be protected. Every time your computer boots up, the system runs a self-check called “Verified Boot”. This feature can detect if your system has been corrupted in any way and actively fix your computer without any extra effort.

The only downside to Chrome OS’ approach to security is the fact that all user information is based on servers that are outside of our control. When Sony’s PlayStation Network was compromised, it was because hackers gained access to unencrypted information from the company’s servers. Luckily, the majority of the information on Google’s servers is encrypted. While that might not necessarily stop a malicious attack, it gives Google time to respond to an unauthorized intrusion and prevents massive data loss.

What do you believe? Are you looking forward to any of the security features of Chrome OS? Do you feel as if the operating system is safe for everyday use? Sound off in the comments below.


Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...

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