Chrome Is About to Hog Your RAM Even More

Google has pushed out a major security update to the Chrome browser that will greatly reduce the possibility of you suffering Spectre-related attacks. But the update also means you could experience worse performance on your computer.

Credit: Shutterstock

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As a reminder, the Spectre and Meltdown flaws were discovered earlier this year. The vulnerabilities affect a large number of Intel and AMD chips (including those running in your computer right now) and let running processes access parts of memory they should not have access to. While the problem is bigger than just the browser, Google noted in a blog post this week that the Spectre vulnerabilities are especially concerning for Chrome and other browsers.

"This is particularly relevant for web browsers, since browsers run potentially malicious JavaScript code from multiple websites, often in the same process," Google wrote. "In theory, a website could use such an attack to steal information from other websites, violating the Same Origin Policy."

To sidestep possible Spectre threats, all major web browsers have developed some ways around the Spectre threats by changing JavaScript compiler functions, among other techniques.

MORE: Google Reinvents Chrome with Big Update: How to Try It

Google, however, believes something called Site Isolation is the best way to protect you from Spectre. And that's what it's turned on inside your browser.

Site Isolation is designed to limit processes to individual pages. So, if you have multiple tabs open, each of the pages will have its own process running and will not share them. That means data won't leak so easily any longer. And when a website would try to access sensitive information through a Spectre attack, the chances of all your information going to hackers should be slim.

"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," Google wrote in its blog post. "This significantly reduces the threat posed by Spectre."

According to Google, it has now turned on Site Isolation for 99 percent of Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS users that are running Chrome 67. (The other 1 percent are going to be a control group for comparison purposes.)

Although this change won't affect how sites look or developers need to code, the technology will require an additional 10 percent to 13 percent of RAM, because tabs that formerly shared some processes now have to run each process independently. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to reduce that RAM usage, but Google noted that it was offsetting the memory hunger by ending some older Spectre mitigations that also ate up RAM but are no longer necessary.

Still, Google argues the overall updates make browsers safer. It plans to work on optimizations in the future to reduce that RAM load.

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.