Although Google’s Chrome started out as one of the least memory hungry browsers in the market, the web browser has started using up a lot of RAM space over a period of time.
To make matters worse, Google has pushed out a major security update to the latest version of Chrome, the 67, that will increase Chrome’s RAM usage by over 10%. However, this time around, it is done to reduce any future security threats posed by the highly-publicized system vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown that shook the technology industry in January. This was due to the design flaw that affected every CPU in the market, enabled hackers to launch attacks such as stealing sensitive information when victims visit malicious websites.
In an official security blog post, Google’s software engineer Charlie Reis announced that it has enabled a security feature called Site Isolation on Chrome 67 to improve stability and make the web browser more resistant to attacks such as Spectre. The Site Isolation feature is enabled on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS platforms that are running Chrome 67.
By enabling Site Isolation, websites that are opened in separate tabs on Google Chrome will be treated as different processes instead of a single one.
“This means that even if a Spectre attack were to occur in a malicious web page, data from other websites would generally not be loaded into the same process, and so there would be much less data available to the attacker. This significantly reduces the threat posed by Spectre,” Reis said.
However, the disadvantage of this feature is that users will have to trade increased RAM consumption and performance slowdown for some added security.
“Site Isolation does cause Chrome to create more renderer processes, which comes with performance tradeoffs: on the plus side, each renderer process is smaller, shorter-lived, and has less contention internally, but there is about a 10-13% total memory overhead in real workloads due to the larger number of processes. Our team continues to work hard to optimize this behavior to keep Chrome both fast and secure.”, Reis added.
The Site Isolation has been enabled on 99% of Chrome 67 users on all platforms. However, the search giant has reserved 1% to monitor and improve performance considering the large scope of this change. Further, the feature is expected to be available on an experimental basis in Chrome 68 for Android later this month. Users will be able to find out if Site Isolation is running by typing “chrome://process-internals” into the address bar. Additionally, Site Isolation will also be added as a stable security feature on Chrome for Android to handle similar security threats.
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