Locking your computer when you step away is good, but it’s not failsafe—if you’ve watched any movie or TV shows with hackers, you know anyone with a malicious USB stick can compromise your device. But Chrome OS will reportedly help safeguard against these sorts of attacks on Chromebooks with a new feature called USBGuard.
Put simply, any new USB device plugged into a locked Chromebook won’t work. That includes physical access attacks like “rubber ducky” USBs, or flash drives that pretend to be a keyboard when plugged in to run malicious code or programs. The feature, which was spotted in a recent Chrome Canary build by Chrome Story, also allows devices that are already plugged in before locking your screen, like chargers, legitimate keyboards and mice, to be whitelisted.
This is similar to a feature that was added to iOS this past summer. In the iOS 11.4.1 update, Apple introduced a USB Restricted Mode that shut off the Lightning port on iPhones once they had been idle for an hour. The mode keeps bad actors and law enforcement from circumventing Apple’s encryption and breaking into your phones.
MacOS does, technically, allow users to shut off USB ports, but doing so is complicated. You can also disable or restrict access to USB drives on Windows, though it’s a multi-step process and not quite as elegant or automatic as the iOS or purported Chromebook feature.
We’ve reached out to Google for more information about the new feature and will update when we hear back.
Though it’s not terribly likely some hacker in a hoodie is going to try and jack your Chromebook if you go to the bathroom while working at a coffee shop, you never know. In general, this is a good-yet-simple update for Chromebook, especially for less tech-savvy users or anyone who spends their time working in public spaces.