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Chromebooks at risk from location-revealing bug — what you need to know

Chromebook location bug
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Chrome OS is a robust OS; it offers a fairly secure ecosystem, and many corporate entities rely on it to shield their business from cyberthreats. Now, however, a newly discovered bug could reveal your location history to anyone who can physically access your Chromebook.

First reported by The Verge, the Chromebook bug was spotted by the Committee on Liberatory Information Technology, which has made some substantial claims: one, that Google has known of the issue for several years; second, it affects the way Chromebooks process Wi-Fi logs — the records made when your Chromebook connects to a network.

The logs appear to be stored in unprotected memory, letting people who are logged in on Guest mode access them. As with all these things, it takes more than a cursory understanding of Chromebooks to extract meaning from the logs. 

However, a determined crook with physical access to the machine could decode the logs, unveiling your location history from up to seven days through the associated Wi-Fi networks you’ve accessed.

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To shore up your best Chromebook defenses, you'll want to toggle off Guest mode entirely. 

This means fully revoking access to the Guest account, as it's a sure-fire way to stop the threat from turning into a Chromebook reality. To do this, follow the steps below.

How to disable guest mode in Chrome OS

  1. Ensure you are logged in as the main user account.
  2. In the bottom right of the screen, click on the time.
  3. Hit "Settings".
  4. Locate the “People” section, then select “Manage other people”.
  5. Switch off “Enable Guest browsing”.

Google has reportedly recognized there's an issue but has given no indication as to when it'll get fixed — that's not entirely helpful. 

Chromebooks, of course, are getting ever-more popular with users: arriving with better spec sets, Google's laptops are increasingly looking to compete with gaming laptops, and offer features to rival more capable machines

Hopefully, Google gets this patched up before it becomes a more systemic Chromebook vulnerability, thereby affecting its new and growing customer base. 

More: Chrome just got a big upgrade for scrolling through your tabs — how to try it now

Luke Wilson

Luke is a Trainee News Writer at T3 and contributor to Tom's Guide, having graduated from the DMU/Channel 4 Journalism School with an MA in Investigative Journalism. Before switching careers, he worked for Mindshare WW. When not indoors messing around with gadgets, he's a disc golf enthusiast, keen jogger, and fond of all things outdoors.