How to Scan, Remove, and Protect your Chromebook from Viruses (Complete Guide)

How to Scan, Remove, and Protect your Chromebook from Viruses (Complete Guide)

So, you’re scared you may have some malware and you want to learn how to scan a Chromebook for viruses.

Or perhaps you’re curious to know if Chromebooks can get viruses.

Or maybe you actually have a virus or malware on your Chromebook, and you need to remove it.

You’ve come to the right place. I often get a lot of questions from readers regarding Chromebooks and malware, so I’ve decided to write up a quick guide on protecting yourself from threats and removing any current viruses or malware on your device.

Sound good? Let’s keep your Chromebook virus-free.

Last updated: 9/7/19.

Are Chromebooks really safe from malware?

Do Chromebooks get viruses? SpongeBob SquarePants meme.
Chromebooks are extremely secure by nature.

First, I should probably mention that malware is a general term for the following:

  • Viruses (boot sector, macro, overwrite, web-scripting, direct action, resident, multipartite)
  • Trojan horses
  • Worms
  • Spyware
  • Adware
  • Bloatware
  • Ransomware
  • Browser hijackers
  • Phishing sites
  • File-less malware
  • Any combination of the above (and a few less-common others)

Chromebooks are safe, but nothing is 100%

The thing is, Chromebooks are nearly invulnerable to any viruses, trojans, or malware because of locked-down and secure Chrome OS is.

As you know, you can’t really do much with Chrome OS in general other than using the Chrome Browser or Play Store apps to do all the things you need to do.

This makes Chromebooks very safe overall, and the chances of getting a virus or even getting hacked on a Chromebook is very, very small.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I mean, anything’s possible, really.

For practicality, we can just assume that your Chromebook can’t get a virus. If you’re getting some weird things happen to your laptop after you log in to your Google Account, it’s probably malware, ransomware, or a hijacker on the Chrome Browser.

Do Chromebooks get viruses?

Ash meme.
Chromebooks don’t really get viruses, no.

It’s very rare that the system itself is infected with a virus or trojan, but more that the browser got infected with something.

It’s definitely safe to assume that the Chrome Browser is a lot more vulnerable to attacks and infections compared to Chrome OS, which powers the Chromebook.

If your browser gets some malware, it can definitely do some strange things to your machine and make it easy to get confused and think that the problem comes from the Chromebook- when in reality, it’s the browser.

So the first place to always check is the browser itself.

Your Chromebook can be factory reset back to default settings in a jiffy, so you can always use that if you’re unsure what’s wrong with your Chromebook.

The two major areas where virus and malware can come from

While Chrome OS is secure, there are two main places where malware, viruses, phishing, browser hijacking, and even personal information can be stolen.

The two areas where Chromebooks are most vulnerable are:

  • Chrome Web Store extensions
  • Google Play Store Android apps

As you know, browser extensions and Android apps are both made by thousands of various developers.

While the majority of developers are doing this to better the community, there are definitely malicious ones who will try to infect your device one way or another.

Chrome Web Store extensions

These extensions attach directly to your browser and offer extended functionality, such as personalizing your Chrome background, enhancing your YouTube experience, or even recording your Chromebook screen.

There’s an extension for nearly everything you could possibly want to do.

Every extension needs to be approved by Google before they’re added to the store. That’s a good thing.

The problem is when developers change the code afterwards, or perhaps they have some hidden code that’s difficult to detect. Or maybe they get lazy and don’t update their extension later on when a vulnerability is detected. There are tons of possibilities.

Android apps

The same goes for Android apps you download from the Play Store.

Not all Chromebooks have this functionality yet, but for those who do, any Android virus you get may possibly port over to your Chromebook.

Again, these apps are reviewed, but there’s always the possibility of hidden, malicious, or outdated code that can offer the developer or other hackers and exploiters to infect your Chromebook with malware or steal your personal details.

That’s why it’s important to practice caution when you download apps or browser extensions. Well cover this later in detail.

Can chromebooks get hacked?

Computer viruses - Keanu meme.
Anything’s possible, I guess.

That depends on what exactly you do on your laptop!

If you only surf safe sites, never download any suspicious apps or Chrome extensions, and always keep your Chromebook updated, you’ll probably never get hacked.

But even if you don’t do all those things, the chances of you getting hacked are pretty low. Chrome OS itself (the operating system that powers your Chromebook) is very secure.

The problem is when you start doing things online using the Chrome Browser, such as visiting sites, adding extensions, or downloading apps from the Google Play Store- this is why things can happen.

Not all apps and extensions are “reviewed” on a constant basis. Sure, before a developer can add their app the Chrome Web Store or Google Play Store, they’re manually reviewed.

But even after that, with frequent cybersecurity threats, apps get outdated or vulnerabilities are discovered in the source code

And if developers don’t follow practices or constantly update their apps for security, all sorts of things can happen.

And that’s just a few of the variables.

There are many possible vulnerabilities

After all, it’s the Internet. Anything can happen.

Just because an app was reviewed and made available to the world doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Think of everything else:

  • A new security bug emerges that affects all apps using a specific engine
  • A developer gets lazy and stops updating their browser extension
  • Someone snuck a dangerous line of code through inspection in one of their apps
  • A new browser hijack for Chrome was released and affects all users

There are a ton of possibilities that can happen. And yes, this has happened before.

Saying that your Chromebook is invulnerable to hacking would be an overstatement.

Although you’re safe for the most part, I can’t say that Chromebooks are 100% safe- that’s just possible.

But the chance of actually getting your Chromebook hacked is very, very slim if you’re safe and practice safe habits (always update, don’t visit shady sites, don’t download shady apps/extensions, etc.).

Do Chromebooks need antivirus?

Computer virus meme.
You can’t get “real” antivirus on a Chromebook even if you tried. Chrome OS doesn’t support third-party software.

I’ve written a lengthy post about this particular subject already.

Chromebooks don’t need an antivirus program per se, and there’s no official “antivirus for Chromebooks.” If you see something from a random company that claims it’s antivirus protection, you’re probably getting scammed.

Chrome OS is very secure and has no need for antivirus, so there’s no need to buy any or even look for any.

Chromebook antivirus software

Since Chromebooks have a very slim chance of virus, trojan, or hacking problems, there’s no need to buy any antivirus, firewalls, or stuff like that for a Chromebook.

There’s actually no official software that exists as antivirus because Chrome OS doesn’t even allow third-party installations to take place, so how would you install antivirus for a Chromebook?

You can’t.

Unless you’re doing it through a browser extension or app, which is also really unnecessary.

How secure are Chromebooks?

Funny kid computer virus meme.
This is pretty much the case on Chrome OS.

Security is top-note on a Chromebook.

Given that these laptops are mainly made for education, we all know that kids on a computer may not always be the most careful and wary.

Thus, it’s imperative to make a machine and operating system that’s extremely safe and can handle everything a kid may be tricked into doing online.

We got the physical part handled- there are some really durable Chromebooks out there that feature everything from rubberized padding, reinforced screen hinges, waterproof keyboard, drop-proof design, and even removable keycaps.

And we also have the software handled- Chrome OS by nature already proves to be very secure. With automatic updates, this is one of the safest laptops out there, especially for kids.

Chromebook ransomware

Ransomware on a Chromebook isn’t a specific infection that’s only on Chromebooks.

Ransomware can affect browsers, operating systems, and sometimes even entire networks. On Chrome, the operating system itself won’t likely get ransomware.

However, the Chrome Browser can definitely be a prime target for hackers and injectors. 

How do I know if I have ransomware?

Ransomware is actually pretty easy to tell because ransomware does exactly what it says: demands a ransom.

So of course, the malware will have to prompt you to pay an amount in order to remove the ransomware.

This usually is in your face when you log on or launch a program. Sometimes it locks up your system to the point where you can even do anything else.

Ransomware typically looks like the following:

  • Random pop ups or ads
  • Alerts and notifications for spam products
  • Downloads of apps, programs, extensions, or other things that you never did yourself
  • Corrupted files
  • Locked up computer that you can’t log back on to
  • Inaccessible files
  • Encrypted files
  • Blank screens
  • Prompts asking you to pay or wire cash to remove the ransomware

Note that most of these don’t typically happen to Chromebooks, so you should be relatively safe from ransomware.

Remove the ransomware

If you get ransomware or you suspect that your device is infected, the first thing I’d suggest is to remove all your Chrome extensions. If you’re still getting the messages, do a Powerwash to restore your laptop back to factory defaults.

Ransomware typically starts through email files, links, social media, or message applications. Many different avenues are possible for ransomware to get on your computer, but it mainly starts with a malicious file attachment.

After that, log back on and you should be good to go. If you’re still getting ransomware messages, the problem doesn’t like with your Chromebook, but your browser.

Some app or extension you have may be causing the issue.

You should probably post a question on the Google Forums, or get in touch with a computer repair center. You can also ask me directly by posting a comment below and I’ll try to help you out ASAP.

Chromebook Browser hijackers

Chrome browser hijacker Toy Story meme.
This is probably one thing you’ll have to watch out for.

A browser hijack often comes from downloading an app or extension that’s hacked or malicious

These entities will basically “take over” your browser and make it do some pretty strange things.

How do I know if I have a browser hijacker?

  • Some of the most common symptoms of a browser hijack are:
  • Your homepage being changed to another site
  • Typing in one website brings you to another site you never intended to go to
  • Strange popups, notifications, or alerts for products and spam
  • Launching multiple tabs without your consent
  • Random webpages, tabs, videos, ads, or notifications
  • Redirection to strange websites

To get rid of the hijack, you should delete all your extensions and apps on your Chromebook to see if that fixes it. If not, Powerwash it.

How do I scan for viruses and Malware on Google Chrome?

Spiderman computer virus meme.
Online virus scanners allow you check a file before you open it. Use multiple for additional security.

This depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re trying to scan a file to see if it’s infected, you can use something like VirusTotal to do that for you.

This is one of the most reputable free online malware scanners, and I’ve used it a few times. It’s not as comprehensive as standalone scanners that are paid, obviously.

But with a Chromebook, that’s not an option as you can’t install virus protection anyway.

If you’re trying to scan for malware or viruses on your actual Chrome Browser, you can use a variety of browser extensions that are completely free to use!

Check out the Chrome Web Store for some scanners.

Since Chromebooks can’t run .exe files or install third-party programs, your choice are limited for virus scanners.

However, I do have a few that online scanners that work through the browser and therefore work with Chromebooks. Note that no online virus scanner is ever 100% thorough, so always use multiple scanners when possible. And your own due diligence.

Here are a few online malware scanners you may want to check out:

Okay, so I think my Chromebook is infected with a virus. How do I remove it?

Computer virus - Yo dawg meme.
Powerwash is the solution to everything.

Alright, so if you think you have a virus, trojans, browser hijacker, or other malware on your Chromebook, there’s a standard procedure you can go through to remove it and restore your device.

It’s actually pretty much the same process as detailed earlier.

Depending on the severity of the malware, you’ll want to use one of these approaches:

Targeted malware removal

If you think the malware only affects a specific area of your Chromebook, use this approach to find out where the issue is and remove it.

You can determine if the infection is isolated to just one area of the Chromebook or Chrome Browser by checking for the following symptoms:

  • You notice that only a specific function acts strange (a single extension, app, notification, etc.)
  • There’s a specific Chrome extension that seems to be affected
  • There’s a specific Play Store app that seems to be infected
  • The problem only occurs on the Chrome Browser
  • The problem only occurs on Chrome OS
  • A recent extension, app, or other software you installed made your Chromebook work differently
  • A recent extension or app update made your Chromebook act strangely

Any of these symptoms are likely due to a specific extension or app that may be broken and affecting your Chromebook or Chrome Browser.

The solution is simple: just remove it.

The easiest way to fix infected or broken Chrome extensions:

  1. Launch Chrome Browser.
  2. Type in  “chrome://extensions” and hit Enter.
  3. You’ll see a full list of all the extension installed on your browser.
  4. Remove a single extension from the list.
  5. Check to see if the problem still occurs.
  6. Repeat the process. Remove the extensions one-by-one until the problem is resolved.

If you’ve gone through all the Chrome extensions and you’re still experiencing the problem- try doing the same process for any Play Store apps you’ve installed on your Chromebook.

And if that still doesn’t work, do a Powerwash. This will restore your device and fix the issue 100%. Be sure to back up your stuff first, then do the Powerwash.

Blanket malware removal

If you don’t know where the malware lies, the solution is to fully restore your Chromebook back to factory settings.

To do this, you’d simply do a two-step approach.

The first is to remove all extension from your Chrome Browser. To do this, here’s how:

  1. Launch Chrome
  2. Type in “chrome://extensions” and hit Enter.
  3. Remove all the extensions from the list.

Then, you’ll want to remove all Play Store apps you’ve downloaded to your device (assuming you have some).

Not all Chromebooks have access to the Play Store, so this step may not be applicable to you.

After that, you’ll want to do a Powerwash. This will delete everything on your device, so make sure you backup your data first, then proceed with the Powerwash.

This will remove any viruses, malware, browser hijackers, and any other malicious software from your Chromebook.

How to protect yourself from viruses on a Chromebook

South Park malware meme.
Always be careful online. Use common sense. Avoid anything shady.

You can greatly minimize the chances of ever getting a virus or malware on your Chromebook by practicing the following:

Be careful what you download from Google Play

If your Chromebook has access to the Google Play Store, any virus or malware that’s capable of infecting Android devices will be able to infect your Chromebook.

The Play Store is basically just a bunch of Android apps that work on Chrome OS. So to keep it simple, any Android virus means a potential Chromebook virus.

If you read reviews, do your research, and watch your permissions for the Android apps you download onto your Chromebook, you should be OK. Just watch out for the following.

Here’s what to look out for when you’re installing an Android app if you want to stay safe:

  • Android apps with no ratings
  • Android apps with poor ratings
  • Apps that seem to have “too many good reviews,” which may be paid or fake
  • Apps that haven’t been updated in a long time
  • Developer has no track record or history
  • Developer seems shady
  • No response from the developer to customer reviews and questions
  • Fake apps
  • Apps that ask too many unnecessary permissions
  • Wallet-based apps
  • Cryptocurrency-based apps
  • Fake antivirus software
  • Apps that require you to pay (debatable)
  • Anything that just looks plain suspicious

Use common sense before you install any Android app. If you stay with just the safe, trusted apps, you can avoid downloading nasty malware on your Chromebook.

Do the same thing with the Chrome Web Store

The Google Play apps will affect your Chromebook directly, but Chrome Web Store apps can affect both your Chromebook and your browser.

Do the same process to vet any browser extensions before you download. Use common sense. Go through the reviews and check for congruency.

See if the developer answers questions and releases updates frequently. Avoid poorly-rated or no-rating extensions.

This will ensure you stay safe and reduce the chances of downloading an extension that’s infected with malware.

Even though both the Google Play apps and Chrome Web Store extensions have to go through a process before they’re available to the public, developers can always add in malicious code later on.

How do I use Chrome cleanup tool?

Keanu Reeves meme.
The Chrome Cleanup Tool will restore your Chrome Browser.

The Chrome Cleanup Tool is probably the most popular extension for Chrome.

This tool lets you customize nearly all aspects of the tool, and it’s also super fast. At one point in history, this tool was a separate standalone extension.

Now, this tool is actually built-in to the Chrome Browser and can definitely clean up your system.

The Chrome Cleanup Tool is effective in doing the following:

  • Removing browser hijackers
  • Deleting infected files

Restoring Chrome back to factory/normal settings

Here’s how you can use the tool to restore the Chrome Browser back to new.

To use the Chrome Cleanup Tool, do the following:

  1. Launch Chrome.
  2. Type “chrome://settings” in the URL field and hit Enter.
  3. On the settings page, scroll down until you see the “Advanced” section, and click on it.
  4. Look for the “Reset settings” menu, and choose “Chrome OS.”
  5. Click on “Reset.”

  • That’s it. Now your browser will reset itself with the Chrome Cleanup Tool and remove all traces of malware!

If that still doesn’t work, then you’ll have to up the ante.

Remove all your extensions on Chrome.

Do a Powerwash.

Then you should be good to go after that. There’s no way any malware can remain behind after that.

Chrome security extensions to protect yourself

Chromebook security extensions - SpongeBob SquarePants meme.
Some free extensions to protect your Chromebook when you have fun online.

Here are a few Chrome extensions to safeguard your privacy online and protect yourself from phishing, cyberattacks, and malicious sites.

Malwarebytes Browser Extension

This is a handy little extension created by Malwarebytes that attaches directly to Chrome.

It’s free and offers some protection against malicious sites that can lead to phishing, tech support scams, and browser attacks. It’s free and is one that I’d recommend for those looking for some basic protection on Chrome.

You can get the extension from Malwarebytes.

HTTPS Everywhere

This is a neat little extension created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that forces all websites to use a secure connection. Just install it and forget about it. It’ll help you out. Literally set and forget for a more secure browsing experience.

You can read more about it here.

Privacy Badger

This will block third-party and first-party tracking software on your browser.

You can customize which scripts or trackers get blocked and it offers plenty of security to safeguard your browsing habits. It’s another extension made by the EFF.

Check out Privacy Badger here.

Web of Trust (WoT)

A useful extension that works on crowd-based reviews.

Others and their machine will rate and review websites for security. The extension will warn you when you enter a site that’s deemed dangerous for malicious intent, phishing, or scamming. It’s like the Amazon star system for websites.

Check it out here.

Ghostery

Ghostery is an all-in-one solution that blocks ads, trackers, and protects your privacy online.

This is one of the most popular ad blockers for Chrome and even speeds up your browsing experience because of less ads to load per page.

At the time of this writing, the extension has over 2.5M users with a near 5/5 star rating.

You can check out Ghostery here.

One Click Cleaner

Another thing you could do to help keep your Chrome Browser and Chromebook running fast is to clear your browser’s old data, cache, and cookies every now and then.

Sure, you could do it the not-so-cool way of going to your browser history and clearing it there.

But don’t you want to be cool?

Well, the cool kids use an extension. A Chrome extension.

There are a few out there, but the one I personally use is called “One Click Cleaner.” As cheesy as the name sounds, this extension will basically clean up your browser with just a few clicks. Maybe not one click, but pretty close to that.

What’s nice about this extension is that you can customize exactly what you want it to do.

You specify what you want this extension to clear, such as:

  • Clear all browsing history
  • Clear cookies
  • Wipe the cache
  • Delete auto filled passwords
  • Delete personal data
  • Wipe all personal session details

I think it’s pretty useful to run this tool once every now and then because Chrome gathers a lot of garbage over time, especially ones that you don’t need to hold onto.

Cleaning your browser removes trackers and leftover, useless data

So wiping it from the browser definitely helps speed up your browsing experience and your Chromebook overall.

If you’ve been asking yourself:

Well my friend, this extension should help you out. You can download this beast on the Chrome Web Store for free here.

(Want some of the other must-have security extensions for your device? Check out this list of the best free extensions to secure your Chromebook.)

Want to buy a Chromebook?

If you’re shopping around for the perfect (or near perfect) Chromebook, here are some of the best Chromebook models based on various lifestyle requirements.

Feel free to take a gander- these should narrow down your buying decision to make it a little easier to decide on the ultimate question:

“Which Chromebook should I buy?”

Check out some of these buyer’s guide to get started:

Did you secure your Chromebook?

Computer malware meme.
Stay safe online, use common sense, and protect your Chromebook to remain virus-free!

Now that we’ve discussed a bit about Chromebooks, viruses, and malware, do you feel a little more confident now about your device?

As long as you play it safe and exercise common sense, you should be OK and there’s no need to actually scan your Chromebook for viruses and whatnot.

Chrome OS, again, is already very secure by itself and the chances of you getting malware on your Chromebook is very low- almost impossible.

So don’t worry too much about your device getting some kind of nasty virus or something. That’s just being paranoid.

Just play it safe and use the above resources to keep your device running smoothly, and you’ll be just fine!

And if you think your Chromebook has a virus or is infected with malware, use those troubleshooting solution to restore your Chromebook detailed earlier in this guide.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment and ask.

I hope this clarifies the situation and alleviate some of your concerns. So stop worrying and start enjoying your laptop already.

Thanks for reading!

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

What do you think?

avatar