Google Chrome Browser Is Going To Hog Even More Memory Thanks To Spectre Mitigation Patch

Security conscious computer users might wonder if we will ever fully put Spectre vulnerabilities behind us. Researchers were still discovering new vulnerabilities related to Spectre early this year. Intel is working to protect users from the vulnerability and only a few days ago it announced a patch for side-challenge exploits for some of it chips and awarded the researchers who found the bug $100,000 for their efforts. Google is also integrating security technology into its popular Chrome browser to protect against Spectre vulnerabilities.

chrome browser

Those new security features come at a cost for Chrome users and that cost is increased memory consumption by the browser. Chrome will reportedly consume about 10 percent more memory with the Spectre mitigations running. This isn’t good news as Chrome is known to be rather memory hungry, especially when you are using multiple tabs at once.

The Spectre fighting tech will roll out this week with Chrome 67 featuring a Site Isolation feature that is on by default. That feature causes Chrome to render more processes and according to software engineer Charlie Reis leads to more memory overhead. This will be particularly unwelcome by users who are running Chrome on devices with 4GB or less of RAM.

Google is promising to continue working on reducing the overhead that Site Isolation tech introduces for Chrome users. Google has said that it has enabled the safeguard on 99% of Chrome users for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. Google withheld the update for about 1% of users to monitor and improve performance. Chrome 68 will roll out later this month and in that version of the browser, users will be able to figure out if Site Isolation is running by typing "chrome://process-internals" into the address bar. That query doesn’t work on Chrome 67. 

Site Isolation will land for Android users when Chrome 68 launches and that version will bring additional desktop features. Reis does talk a bit about what his team is working on for the future of Chrome. He said, "We're also working on additional security checks in the browser process, which will let Site Isolation mitigate not just Spectre attacks but also attacks from fully compromised renderer processes. Stay tuned for an update about these enforcements."