I have recently been reading about the unpatchable BadUSB and similar malware. I use Chrome OS, which is supposed to be very secure, but could someone with physical access to my system compromise it with malware such as this?

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TL;DR: ChromeOS is vulnerable to BadUSB, but this is probably not a big security concern.

BadUSB works by installing malicious code in a USB device controller. This can allow one type of device to impersonate another. For example, a thumb drive may impersonate a keyboard; one that starts typing commands right when it is plugged in. While operating systems have moved away from autorun functionality to prevent an attack from happening the moment you plug in a drive, OSs still allow a keyboard to begin typing without any security prompts. So any OS that allows a keyboard (or mouse or potentially other USB devices) to immediately start interacting with the computer is potentially vulnerable to BadUSB. Unless I'm mistaken, this is true for Chrome OS.

That said, I doubt that this should be your biggest security concern. BadUSB is difficult to execute. It involves finding a hackable USB device (it seems this isn't difficult as USB microcontrollers aren't well protected), creating software appropriate to the device type and the attack you are planning, hacking the device (either physically or by flashing the microcontroller), engineering the process of getting the device used on the target computer, and then being able to perform the attack without being noticed. Note that this last part is non-trivial as this is not some backdoor, over-the-net type attack. This is a USB device that unexpectedly starts typing characters, albeit very quickly, while you are looking at your computer.

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    If someone has physical access to a chromebook. Is there any type of spyware, backdoor, way they could hack it that wouldn't be noticeable and you couldn't simply uninstall yourself. Developer mode is not enabled.
    – Jason
    Jan 16, 2016 at 19:39
  • First, there is no need to use BadUSB if you have physical access. Eg: it is easier to just plug-in a keyboard instead of a plugging in a thumb drive that behaves like a keyboard. As far as your question, there can always be vulnerabilities that allow an attack. There are also plenty of physical attacks that might work, depending on the device. It can be vulnerable if it will boot from a USB driver or network, if the disk can be removed, the boot process can be modified, and similar. In general, once you relinquish physical control, you are relinquishing security. Jan 16, 2016 at 20:02
  • But there is no sort of spyware or hack that can persist if you reset a chromebook to factory settings?
    – Jason
    Jan 16, 2016 at 21:33
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    That is incorrect @Jason. Once you've lost physical control of a device, you can never trust it again. Chromebook ROMs can be flashed and chips can be replaced on the motherboard. This is why security conscious travelers to China and similar untrustworthy countries will never trust their portable devices after a visit to the country. Jan 16, 2016 at 22:12
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    But that doesn't mean that your device has been compromised or is likely to be compromised. Just that you can never be certain it hasn't been compromised after you lost physical control of it. I should mention that you didn't have physical control of it before you bought it so you can never be sure that it wasn't tampered with before you got your hands on it. That doesn't mean that tampering is likely, just impossible to rule out. Jan 16, 2016 at 22:13

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