When the team behind Google’s Chrome OS software and Chromebooks set out to reinvent the laptop, it quickly zeroed in on security as an area where it could bring a fresh perspective.
“On Chrome OS, we were like, ‘We control all the pieces. We can do better,'” Will Drewry, a principal software engineer for Google’s devices, and one of the founding fathers of the Chromebook, said in an interview in January.
The team wanted to build something that would fit this generation’s needs, as well as address the rising crop of threats facing PCs.
“Security was thought of very differently back then because there weren’t as many security attack vectors that are out today,” Kan Liu, Google’s director of product management, said in the same interview.
Liu and Drewry sent out a prototype unit, the CR-48, to security experts for feedback. The responses were surprisings
A lot of the early feedback was very detailed on things like, ‘Hey, the trackpad is terrible,'” Liu said.
There was hardly a peep when it came to security flaws.
Nine years later, and Chromebooks are a smash success. Nearly three out of every five machines used in schools run the Chrome OS, according to researcher Futuresource Consulting.
In fact, Chromebooks are so successful in the education world that on Tuesday, Apple held its latest iPad unveiling at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep High School in an effort to re-establish its position in the area.
Thanks to the early focus on preventing cyberattacks, Chromebooks are also a hit with the security community. Security experts commonly recommend Chromebooks, whether it’s for the relative who somehow always ends up with spyware toolbars or the researcher heading to a hackers’ meetup.
And it’s not about complicated encryption or security tricks — Chromebooks have gained popularity through a combination of affordability and simple but effective security.
Take Jake Williams, the founder of Rendition Security. He not only uses a Chromebook, he also says he’s comforted by the fact that his daughter has one in school.
“I definitely feel like she is more safe on a Chromebook than a Windows laptop,” he said.
Heading to my first security conference last year, I expected to see a tricked-out laptop running on a virtual machine with a private network and security USB keys sticking out
Everywhere I went I’d see small groups of people carrying Chromebooks, and they’d tell me that when heading into unknown territory it was their travel device.
Google’s laptop brand first debuted in 2010 as a stripped-down computer with the web browser as the main operating system. Back then, Chromebooks were slow to gain acceptance because of their closed ecosystem, which meant an inability to download programs from the internet. But Chromebooks have now outsold both Windows and Mac laptops.
Alongside the bare-bones OS came a set of security features that, more than five years later, companies like. Fewer software choices mean limited options for hackers.
Those are some of the benefits that have led security researchers to warm up to the laptops.