A Chromebook is already an ultra-secure computer straight out of the box. Since it doesn’t run a traditional operating system and takes advantage of various Google-powered security measures, Chrome OS is well-guarded against all the miscreants lurking out there on the Web.
But you can always do more, particularly if you want to minimize traces of your Internet wanderings, or prevent your every online action from contributing to an advertising profile.
You may share a Chromebook with others or desire a setup that’s impervious to the latest security threats. Perhaps it’s time for a little de-Googling in your life, as the Mountain View giant can collect a lot of information about you.
Whatever your reasons, here are some ways to fortify your Chromebook’s security structure.
Chrome’s default security
Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser, which already benefits from Google’s ongoing security efforts to identify malicious websites and sandbox each browser tab so one site can’t take down your whole computer. Furthermore, you can sign out of your Google account and wipe the entire Chromebook with ease, so you don’t have to be concerned about files lingering around after you’ve sold or gifted your device to someone else.
Leave no trace
You’ve probably had the experience of checking out, say, a new tent on Amazon, and then suddenly ads for that sleeping shelter appearing on every site you visit.
You can stop the madness. One place to start is Privacy Badger, an extension from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The extension blocks trackers, though you’re able to accept some cookies or whitelist specific sites.
Another helpful extension from the EFF privacy advocates is HTTPS Everywhere. Once you install this to Chrome, the browser will force a secure connection to all the sites you visit on the Web. Even though Google and others have made a huge push to make HTTPS the default connection, nonsecure sites are still out there.
You may experience some weirdness with certain websites since the extension is trying to force an encrypted connection on sites that aren’t coded for this by default. In such circumstances, a workaround is to temporarily disable the extension for a particular site.
Chrome can assist here. When you click the paper icon in Chrome’s address bar, you’ll get details about the number of cookies the site is planting in your browser. It’s an insightful metric when visiting various websites.
When it comes time to sell your Chromebook or pass it down to a needy friend or family member, be sure to wipe it of all identifying information. It’s a straightforward process: Sign out of your Chromebook, then hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R. Then click Restart and Reset.
Going with a little less Google
Maybe you don’t want Google itself to follow your every move online, sharing your searches with Google’s other services (which can sometimes provide interesting results). One solution is to switch your default search provider to DuckDuckGo. It’s a privacy-focused search engine that doesn’t track your search history.
To do this, go to DuckDuckGo, right-click in the address bar, and select Edit Search Engines. Then from the list of search engines, click the Make default button next to DuckDuckGo. Now when you type a search query in Chrome, it will be powered by the quacky search engine that keeps your secrets safe.
You can also maintain privacy by signing in to Chrome’s Guest Mode, which is totally detached from your personal profile, settings, history, etc. All you have to do is sign out of your current session and get going as a guest.
You can further minimize Google’s hold on your personal information by turning off autofill and automatic sync in Chrome. By doing this, Google won’t automatically try to put in your name, address, email, and other details wherever you go to fill out an online form. While the autofill feature is definitely convenient, you may not want to have this always at the ready. Killing off sync means your search history and other preferences will remain local to that machine.
Go to Settings > Advanced Sync Settings and uncheck the Autofill box. If you like the convenience of synced data and passwords, but just don’t want to give it to Google, consider a password manager.
If you really want to go deep into the privacy woods, you can switch up your DNS server to a provider that won’t log or retain these lookups. By default, your administrator or Internet service provider may retain this information.
To change the DNS settings on your Chromebook, first head to the the Chrome menu, choose Settings > Internet Connection and then click on your network.
Then head to the Network tab and choose Custom name servers. You can enter in the following details from DNS Watch, which advocates for data privacy. Enter 188.8.131.52 for server 1, and 184.108.40.206 for server 2. Choose Disconnect. Then, select the network again and choose Connect. This will change the switchboard from sending your traffic through your ISP.
While your Chromebook is already about as secure a computer as you can get, it can’t hurt to go the extra mile. There are some additional steps you can take for extra security, such as using a VPN. It can be a scary world online, but with a few strategic moves, your Chromebook will be impervious to the wild woods of the Internet.