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

Chrome 70 is now available and won’t automatically log you in to the browser

Google has officially launched Chrome version 70 on Windows Mac and Linux. The update introduces some new Progressive Web App integrations on Windows 10 and also tweaks the much controversial auto login with Google Account feature.
Computing

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies. 
Computing

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…
Computing

Google’s Pixel Slate could land in stores in time for Black Friday

Google's Pixel Slate should arrive by Thanksgiving, according to a leaked Best Buy listing. Though it will arrive in time for Black Friday, don't expect any discounts if you're looking to pick up Google's new Chrome OS tablet.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.
Photography

Remove photo bombs, other unwanted objects with Photoshop’s new Content-Aware Fill

Photoshop's newest A.I-powered tool helps remove objects or fill in gaps for a distraction-free photo in the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. Here's how to remove an object in Photoshop using the new Content-Aware Fill.
Web

Feed your fandom: These are the best YouTube channels for sports lovers

If you're a cable cutter who still wants to enjoy quality sports highlights and analysis, YouTube is the place to go. There are plenty of great sports-centric channels on YouTube, each of which provides great highlights and top-shelf…
Photography

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.
Computing

Winamp eyes big comeback in 2019 with podcast, streaming support

Classic audio player Winamp is getting a major overhaul in 2019 that's designed to bring it up-to-date and make it competitive with the likes of Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Audible, and more, all in one go.
Computing

Is the Pixelbook 2 still happening? Here's everything we know so far

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Has the Pixel Slate taken its place? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Computing

Problems with Microsoft’s Windows October 2018 Update aren’t over yet

Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2018 update is not having a great launch. More than two weeks after its debut and Microsoft is still putting out fires as new bugs are discovered and there's no sign of its re-release as of yet.