Monday, April 16, 2012

Chromebook: Security

For those of us who love the Internet, it's an incredible treasure chest of information, communication, and amusement.

What Grandma sees on the World Wide Web
But dangers lurk there too. Especially for those who are not confident of their ability to perform the correct evaluations and actions.

There are two categories of accident-prone Web users. There are the ones too young to understand the dangers. They are the ones who will click on anything that looks interesting, and gladly install heaven-knows-what when we've allowed them to use our computer one afternoon.

Then there's the ones who are old enough to understand; but not experienced enough to properly evaluate the risks. They tend to not click on anything; including that email from a grandchild with an attachment and the notices that their operating system needs to be upgraded.

Then they panic and click on the spam banner that promises to scan their computer and check for viruses, free. Funny how those programs always seem to find so many scary viruses!

These are the folks who drive their computer-savvy relatives crazy. The Chromebook can be the right answer for these kinds of Internet users. Because the Chromebook is the most secure operating system around.

It is called Verified Boot. Because the Chrome OS is so small, it can be stored in an encrypted section of memory. Then it can be checked against a "certified copy" to see if any part of it has been tampered with. If it has, it is re-installed with a fresh operating system before moving forward. In about 8 seconds.

This does more than protect against viruses. It also means it is easy to add updates, and get a "system refresh" that is truly fresh. During their running life, computers accumulate small errors in the lots and lots of little programs that make up their operating system. Part of what a computer does is evaluate these responses that are not what they expect, figure out what should be happening, and then make the right thing happen.

Over time, this accumulates into a lot of drag in the computer's responsiveness. The usual prescription is to re-install the operating system periodically. It takes a really hardcore tech nerd to enjoy that process. This also wipes out all the little tweaks and personalizations the user accumulated to feel at home on the computer. Even the most hardcore tech nerd does not enjoy that process.

This is what is supposed to keep my Chromebook as nimble and responsive as my first experience. While the Chrome OS wards off attacks from viruses, my data is in their cloud; safer than it would be on a hard drive that will have to be wiped clean if it gets infected.

Those of us who are used to the ways we maintain our system and keep it safe are not aware that this is any thing more than an onerous chore. But a lot of computer users can't think about it that way. They don't understand it.

Now, they don't need to.

  • This post is one of a series of articles about living with my Chromebook. See all my posts about life in the cloud.

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