Set Up Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on Your Chromebook

vpn-1I must admit I love my Chromebook laptop. I travel a lot and this lightweight laptop is close to a perfect traveling computer. Not only is it lightweight, its battery lasts for more than eight hours, it boots up quickly, and it never gets viruses. Thanks to the high security of today’s cloud-based apps, it is perhaps the second-most most private computer I own. My desktop computer with the TAILS Linux system is the most secure (see https://privacyblog.com/2015/05/02/use-a-secure-and-free-computer-for-banking-and-all-other-finances) but that is a desktop system, not a laptop. The Chromebook is more practical for use when traveling. Nothing needs to be stored on the Chromebook itself where it is accessible to thieves.

(I had a Windows laptop stolen from the trunk of my automobiles a few years ago so I am really sensitive about storing personal information in an unencrypted format anyplace where it might be stolen, as happened to me. With a Chromebook, there is no need to store anything in the Chromebook’s internal hard drive. Anyone who steals a Chromebook will obtain no private information at all.)

The Chromebook performs most of its magic by connecting to a wi-fi connection and using apps and secure file storage in the cloud. When a wi-fi connection is not available, I use the tethering feature on my cell phone to supply wi-fi to the Chromebook. For info on tethering, see my earlier How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Wi-Fi Hotspot article at https://privacyblog.com/2016/01/02/how-to-turn-your-smartphone-into-a-wi-fi-hotspot.

Setting up a VPN on a Chromebook is surprisingly easy if you already subscribe to a VPN service that uses OpenVPN or L2TP. Most of the reputable VPNs do offer one of those or both. Full instructions for configuring a OpenVPN or L2TP VPN service are given on Google Chromebook Support pages at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/1282338?hl=en.

I configured the Private Internet Access service (see https://www.privateinternetaccess.com) within 2 or 3 minutes on my Chromebook and it seems to work well. If you are not familiar with VPNs, it may require a bit more time than what I required but it still isn’t rocket science. I suspect most experienced computer users can follow the instructions. If you are not that experienced, ask a friend or, even better, that 12-year-old up the street for assistance.

 

6 thoughts on “Set Up Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on Your Chromebook

  1. I find it highly ironic that this is a blog about privacy yet you use a chrome book and post links in the form of click analytics goo.gl form.

    Google is the worst of the worst when it comes to privacy. If you care one bit about your privacy, you ought to consider ridding your life of Google completely.

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    • —> If you care one bit about your privacy, you ought to consider ridding your life of Google completely.

      Having owned Chromebooks for several years and using them often, I would respectfully disagree. First of all, it is easy to encrypt files on a Chromebook before saving them on Google Drive or any other cloud-based file storage service. Once you do that, not even the Google employees or the Google.com software can read your files. There are several different products that add file encryption security to Chromebooks. I described one in my earlier article at https://privacyblog.com/2015/10/29/easy-file-encryption-on-your-chromebook-windows-or-macintosh-computer-with-minilock/

      For additional security, all Chromebooks come with VPN capabilities built in. The VPN software will work with the majority of VPN services. I use VPN most of the time on my Chromebook.

      Next, any time you’re just surfing the Web and not doing anything that requires your Google ID, you should make use of the Guest-mode feature on your Chromebook. Google won’t know that it is you using the Internet and will be unable to track you. Guest-mode is built into every Chromebook. You can’t do that on Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS or Android.

      Chromebook devices are also virus free so that eliminates most opportunities for keyloggers and numerous other sorts of malevolent software.

      When a Chromebook boots, it uses a process called Verified Boot to check that its firmware and Chrome OS operating system haven’t been tampered with. The Chromebook checks that its Linux kernel is properly signed and continues checking all of the operating system components as they load, verifying that the underlying Chrome OS was signed as legitimate by Google themselves. This provides you with more security than you can get with a traditional laptop.

      Chromebooks will not allow email file attachements to be stored on the internal hard drive (which usually is really an SSD drive). This means that a malicious email attachment can’t install a virus, unlike Windows.

      When you log out, the Chrome operating system erases all traces of your activity. Not just the usual browser history and cookies, it also removes any files that were downloaded onto the Chromebook. Unlike Windows, no hacker or any piece of software can scan your cookies or cache to see where you have been online.

      Using a Chromebook with a Google account provides additional safety when compared to Windows because Chrome OS encrypts all your files. There is no way another person using the same Chromebook can see anything of yours (assuming you don’t give out your Google password).

      One of the reasons I use a Chromebook is because it is more secure than my Windows system. It is safer than anything running Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS or Android.

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  2. Hi Dick,

    You write in your comment above the following:

    Next, any time you’re just surfing the Web and not doing anything that requires your Google ID, you should make use of the Guest-mode feature on your Chromebook. Google won’t know that it is you using the Internet and will be unable to track you. Guest-mode is built into every Chromebook. You can’t do that on Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS or Android.

    Do you mean by this when using guest mode with vpn only or just guest mode itself? And are you sure Google will not know it is “you”. By this I mean do you know for a fact Google is not tracking/logging by a device identifier or something like that? Or cross referencing any guest mode activity with any users that have logged into that device before? I am not saying they are and I would hope they would not and I generally trust Google but I am frustrated by their privacy policy wordings in that it is hard to pin down exactly what they do or don’t do and wish things were explicitly clear. Also do you know if there is any way to contact Google to get straight and definitive answers to privacy questions without legalese type vague answers? I am very interested in chromebooks but the privacy issues become even more important since they are so connected to Google in every way. Thank you.

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    • —> Do you mean by this when using guest mode with vpn only or just guest mode itself?

      Guest mode itself.

      —> And are you sure Google will not know it is “you”.

      Thats what Google states. I tend to believe them. I have no test equipment capable of proving or disproving that. Google’s statements have almost always proven to be correct. Maybe there is an exception some place but, if so, that would be unusual.

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  3. Thanks for your quick reply. From above:

    —> And are you sure Google will not know it is “you”.

    Thats what Google states. I tend to believe them. I have no test equipment capable of proving or disproving that. Google’s statements have almost always proven to be correct. Maybe there is an exception some place but, if so, that would be unusual.

    Do you know or remember where Google states this? As I don’t remember seeing anything like that but I’ll review the privacy policy again as I may have missed it. But I don’t remember Google mentioning anything about their end of data collection/tracking in Guest Mode at all. They have convinced me completely that nothing at all remains on CB itself after leaving Guest Mode but that is different. As I had assumed that all normal Google Chrome stuff still applied like Google logging ip or search terms even in Guest Mode, is that not the case? And it is relevant as in Guest Mode without bookmarks the omnibox search has to be used. Or does nothing remain even on Google servers after leaving Guest Mode? And please don’t misunderstand as I want you to be right and you most likely are as I know you know more than me about it and I do generally trust Google as well. But just wish everything on their data collection and tracking was made clearer.

    Thanks again.

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    • Note the PCMag article at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2462660,00.asp :

      “The true purpose of Guest mode is to allow your friends to use your Chromebook without giving them access to your Google account. Since Google associates everything you do with your account, you may not want whatever it is your friends do to be associated with you, your Google history, and the advertisements and search results that Google is tailoring to your activity. You can also use Guest Mode to make sure any particular one of your online sessions is excluded from other information Google collects about you, too.

      “Note that browsing data from guest sessions aren’t saved, but Google warns that some websites still may have records of the visit.

      Like

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