The tech-forward world we live in today has all sorts of scenarios taking place. While technological advancement is shaping up to be better than ever, hacking and cybercrimes are also exponentially at large, victimizing millions of people across the spectrum and rendering their computing devices useless and exploited. If you find yourself sinking in a similar boat, and are concerned regarding the safety of the Chromebook, keep on reading until the end of this guide to clear your doubts.
This article will cover all the different ways you can approach how to check if someone is spying on your Chromebook. We’re going to leave a bunch of pointers in the write-up ahead that will help you determine whether the device you use is genuinely hacked or simply running slow. Let’s get on with the tutorial without any further ado.
- Recommended read: How to revert Chrome OS to an older version on a Chromebook.
Chrome OS and spyware
Before we tread further into the article, it’s worth taking a moment out and talking about the security and privacy of Chrome OS as a whole. If you weren’t aware already, Chromebooks are devices that have never been hit with ransomware, let alone contracting something else. Right from the get-go, this statement says a lot about what we’re dealing with here.
The matter is that Chrome OS is one of the most robust operating systems out there that’s emboldened with layers of security. Its protective mechanisms include the verified boot-up, sandbox security, tamper-resistant hardware, and the Chrome OS recovery mode. All these in-built features come together to make it insanely hard for viruses to find their way inside the infrastructure of Chromebooks.
However, even when they discover a method to invade Chrome OS, they’re thoroughly contained and prompted to be wiped out shortly afterward, making it meaningless for any malware to meddle with a Chromebook. A Google product expert in a forum post even says that Chromebooks cannot be hacked, so if the situation warrants you to look outside the box, do consider that what you’re experiencing can be a user-induced scam.
With all of that being said and done, telltale signs can hint toward a hacking attempt or, even worse, a full-scale invasion. The section ahead will cover the nitty-gritty of instances that pose a chance of you being spied on by someone.
What happens when your Chromebook is being spied on?
The following is a round-up of all the different factors that will consolidate the chances that your Chromebook, in actuality, is being spied on. Keep on reading to see if you can relate to the outlined information.
The device starts acting unusual
One of the first signs that depict a spyware-ridden Chromebook is that the device starts acting out of its way. This means that applications will begin opening up on their own, your mouse cursor will start moving abruptly, and the operating system will shut down and reboot on its own. Weird stuff will happen on the device if your Chromebook contracts actual spyware. In most cases, these unusual happenings will be hard to miss.
The Chromebook starts running painfully slow
What accompanies atypical occurrences on your Chromebook is dismal device performance. It’ll become an ever-increasing struggle to perform basic tasks on the device, such as opening a window, using the Chrome browser, running the Linux Terminal, and launching any other application, such as YouTube or Netflix. That said, slow performance levels do not always require the device being spied on.
Many other reasons can make your Chromebook go painfully slow. One of them is an overload of your storage space and internal memory. This can cause the device to drop its performance levels and lag with each cursor click. Therefore, make sure you know how to clear up your RAM in such cases and avoid issues you do not want to create for yourself.
You’ll have to differentiate this with spyware yourself. If your Chromebook is acting super weird and not working half of the time, this probably means that a virus has become persistent within Chrome OS. However, if it’s only the performance measuring up to be a drag, but everything else is fine, seek out other measures and evaluate your device’s overall health to fix the issue.
Applications and Chrome extensions install on their own
Another obvious sign that someone is spying on your Chromebook is the presence of applications and Chrome extensions that you didn’t install on your own. Play Store applications are no exception. Likewise, you’ll find apps you don’t remember installing popping up in the Chromebook launcher. This is solid evidence that certain spyware has successfully landed within the Chrome OS infrastructure.
First off, launch the Chrome web browser and go to the “Manage extensions” page, as shown in our guide on how to manage extensions. Carefully observe for extra add-ons that seem dubious, especially those you don’t remember installing on your own. Once done, open the Chromebook Launcher next to find any suspicious Linux or Play Store installed apps. Finally, it bears importance to look into the “Files” system app for anything that could come off as mistrustful.
If there’s something on the device you didn’t install on your own, then there’s a strong likelihood that someone is spying on your Chromebook. One painless way of determining concurrently running processes, especially those that you’re unaware of, pertains to the functioning of the Chrome OS Task Manager. You can open this feature by pressing the “Search” and “Esc” keys together. Monitor the results carefully to confirm strange processes.
The Chromebook webcam toggles on by itself
Another facet that more or less ascertains that someone is spying on your Chromebook is the unusual behavior of the Chrome OS camera. The component will turn on and off without your permission, making it seem like the device suffers from a software issue. If this turns out to be the case, then there’s a good chance of your Chromebook already going toe-to-toe with some malware.
Your internet data starts getting exorbitantly consumed
If you see that your internet data is getting used up rapidly, your device might be getting spied on. This is yet another telltale sign of a spyware-ridden device. Check with your data plan provider or router to confirm which device takes up the most data. If it’s the Chromebook in question, you can deem yourself in trouble.
The antivirus software detects something fishy in the mix
If you’ve got some of the best antivirus installed on your Chromebook to stay extra safe, you might be automatically notified of the presence of a foreign agent. When that happens, you don’t have to stray too far to confirm if someone is spying on your Chromebook since the antivirus software has already detected something fishy in the mix. This is another sign that your device is currently laden with spyware.
Now that you know what signs to look out for when you’re having your doubts with your Chromebook, let us get on with the most well-grounded ways you can use to free your device from malicious content. If you’re not experiencing any of the issues we’ve detailed above, then it’s safe to say that no one is spying on your Chromebook.
How to steer clear of spyware, even when affected
If you’ve confirmed that someone is keeping a watch over you, then it might be high time to get rid of this specific someone’s control over your Chromebook. The following subtitles are going to explain how to do just that.
Install an antivirus software
While we’ve already debated long and hard whether a Chromebook even needs antivirus software in the first place, it’s worth installing a dedicated antivirus program on Chrome OS if you have been somehow afflicted with spyware. This should be one of your first steps in alleviating the problem, considering how some of these dedicated applications, like Avast Antivirus, can handle their jobs exceptionally well.
If you don’t have software like the one we mentioned above, we recommend downloading something effective and letting it run a complete scan of your Chromebook. If a spyware program or any other malicious content has made the device virus-ridden, the antivirus program will work immediately and dig out the root cause of the issue. Afterward, the problem will also be laid to rest in a moment, given that you’re using a high-quality app.
If that doesn’t help, there are many other things to take a shot at. Let’s take a look at them below.
Delete all randomly installed software
It should be second nature to get rid of all the software that has been installed on your Chromebook without your consent. Getting rid of these usually solves the issue, considering you reboot the device straight after. Therefore, go into the “Manage extensions” page of the Chrome browser, pick out apps from the Chromebook Launcher, and clean sweep dubious data in the “Files” system app.
If that doesn’t help resolve the problem, you probably need to attempt the following.
Update the device
Keeping Chrome OS updated at all times is equal to keeping it at its strongest. If you’ve been notified that an update is available for your device, tend to it immediately to see if it fixes the issue. In addition, you might have to check for updates manually as well. For this purpose, go into the “Settings” system app and click on the “About Chrome” section in the sidebar to the left.
Once done, you’ll find it visibly apparent to click on the “Check for updates” button. Do that and confirm if any updates have been in the pipeline for you, waiting to be downloaded. Upon proper completion, you’ll have to restart the device to apply the changes. As soon as the device boots back on, you should be able to navigate around the Chromebook spyware-free. However, if that does not turn out to be the case, there’s only one thing left to do.
Powerwash your Chromebook
If nothing else comes to fruition, then there’s one trick up every Chromebook’s mechanical sleeve that can render even the toughest useless—the Powerwash. This is another term for hard resetting your device, so it no longer keeps all of your locally stored files or anything like that. All present software, including system updates, is wiped off the face of Chrome OS. Any malicious content is getting eradicated and everything else in the wake of a Powerwash.
To learn how to do this, check out our guide to Powerwash your Chromebook for step-by-step instructions. There’s a high chance that you will have the problem fixed after successfully hard resetting the device, installing the latest updates, and getting back to the main Chrome OS user interface.
Chromebooks are incredibly secure devices that do a great job at protecting essential system and user files. They’re integral in keeping themselves safe from the shadow of malware and making it impossible for contracting viruses to inflict any actual harm. However, there’s still a significantly off chance that spyware might affect your Chromebook, making it seem like someone is spying on you.
In that case, there are plenty of things that can be done to confirm if that truly is the case. This guide has covered the most prominent ones that will help you reach a firm conclusion. In addition, the methods that can fix this alarming issue have also been laid out in a separate section. Be sure to read the instructions above carefully for the best results!
As always, Chrome Ready wishes you good luck!
- Before you leave: How to fix the Google Chrome pop-up virus on Android.