Google Chrome now consumes more memory due to a new Spectre fix

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Chrome

Version 67 of Google’s Chrome browser for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS now includes a new security feature called Site Isolation. This new component protects web surfers against Spectre-based attacks on the internet but for a price: 10 to 13 percent more system memory consumption.

Spectre — along with Meltdown — is a design flaw in modern processors that enable hackers to gain access to data stored in memory. This data is supposedly off limits, but the method processors use to predict the outcome of their current task leaves that data exposed. Hardware and software manufacturers have scrambled to fix these flaws since their initial reveal in January.

While the typical scenario sees a hacker physically accessing a computer and running custom code to read sensitive data stored in memory, an attack can happen across the internet as well. According to Google, browsers run potentially malicious JavaScript code in the background from multiple websites and in many cases within the same process. That means a website could steal data stored in memory stemming from other websites.

Although all major web browsers include “some mitigations” to prevent Spectre-based attacks, Google believes Site Isolation is the best approach. Prior to version 67, Chrome relied on a multi-process architecture that allowed each tab to have its own web page rendering process. The problem is that many websites use frames (aka iframes) to compile different web-based components together into a single page: Components that are used across multiple sites. The page may even display cross-site pop-ups too.

That said, all of this rendering resides within a single process. But if one of those components or pop-ups include malicious JavaScript that exploits the Spectre flaw, they could read data residing in the system memory that is stored by the other components of the page. Data may include passwords, cookies, credit card numbers, and so on.

google chrome eats more memory thanks to spectre site isolation diagram

With Site Isolation, pages aren’t rendered in a single process. Instead, the website’s mainframe has its own render process while all other cross-site components have their own individual “out of process” rendering. This is why the browser’s memory consumption increased up to 13 percent.

According to Google, splitting a single page across multiple processes is a major change to how Chrome displays a single page.

“The Chrome Security team has been pursuing this for several years, independently of Spectre,” states Google’s Charlie Reis. “Site Isolation is a significant change to Chrome’s behavior under the hood, but it generally shouldn’t cause visible changes for most users or web developers.”

Although Site Isolation is baked into Chrome 67 for Windows, Mac, Linux and Chrome OS, only 99 percent of those installs will actually have the feature running in the background. The remaining one percent will stay inactive as Google monitors and improves performance.

Does that mean the team will trim off Chrome’s 10 to 13 percent added memory consumption? Time will tell, and given that Chrome already gobbles memory like a kid on Halloween, the extra Spectre-based consumption could be an unwanted setback for machines with low amounts of system memory.

Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Chrome’s dark mode may cast its shadow over Macs by early 2019

By early 2019 Google may release a version of Chrome for Mac users that offers a Dark Mode feature to match MacOS Mojave's recent darkening.
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Computing

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 
Computing

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.