Security

Google Chrome adds ‘Site Isolation Feature’ to Prevent Spectre Attacks

Side-channel attacks such as Spectre are the latest discovery in the category of security risks for web browsers. Such attacks are the cause of stealing sensitive information like login details and other private data from websites which were open in the web browser. The threat was so grave that tech companies all scrambled to protect against snatching of sensitive data such as login passwords and encryption keys.

Owing to the dangers anticipated from Spectre, Google Chrome 67 today announced the release of a special security feature known as ‘Site isolation’ for 99% of users on Mac, Windows, Linux and Chrome OS. One percent has been held back for improvement and monitoring performance.

The feature was previously optionally available for Chrome 63 users but there were many known issues present which have now been resolved. Moreover, this updated feature was specifically tested for being a stricter variation of protection against Spectre, an attack type identified by Google in January. Eric Lawrence termed this release as an impressive move in curbing the attacks.

https://twitter.com/ericlaw/status/1017092009092354048

Introduction of this new feature comes across as a major change to the Chrome browser. Experts at Chrome reveal that the feature impacts a core part of the browser known as the renderer. Renderer turns the website programming code into real pixels on the laptop or phone screen. When site isolation is introduced, the renderers are split into distinct computing processes frequently to wall data off better.

This change naturally entails that Chrome requires more memory, approximately 10 to 13 percent for users who have many tabs open. However, Spectre attacks become harder to be initiated as this feature allows for a relaxation of previous restrictions by Google on the monitoring of precise browser action timing. In the official blog post, Reis said, “Our team continues to work hard to optimize this behavior to keep Chrome both fast and secure.”

Further work on the feature is ongoing where the Google Chrome team is investigating the extension of Site Isolation coverage to Chrome for Android and fixing of additional known issues. Experimental enterprise policies for enablement of Site Isolation will be available in Chrome 68 for Android. Additional security checks will also be made available in the next browser version.

Maira Ahmed


Maira is a system analyst for the last 10 years. She likes to explore, experience and understand new technologies shaping the future. She was a key member of the MUM "Mera Urdu Messenger"s (R&D) team, the first ever Urdu messenger released by CRI in the 90s.
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