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09 February 2012, 10:26

Chrome 17 brings improved speed and security

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Google Chrome logo Google has announced the release of version 17 of Chrome, the company's own extended version of the open source Chromium web browser. To make it even faster, the new version of Chrome, labelled 17.0.963.46, will now start loading pages in the background before a user has even finished typing a URL into the Omnibox address and search bar.

The browser does this by pre-rendering some of the pages that the currently typed text could autocomplete as. The idea is to reduce the time between a user pressing enter and the page being fully loaded. Google Software Engineer Noé Lutz says that this will, in some cases, cause pages to appear "instantly". For developers, new extensions APIs have also been added, though specific details are not provided.

Chrome 17 includes updates to the browser's Safe Browsing technology that are designed to better protect users against malicious downloads by analysing executable files, including Windows .exe and .msi files. So, if a user visits a web site and is tricked into downloading, for example, a fake anti-virus product, Chrome will check the download against a list of known bad files and, should it appear to be malicious, will advise the user to discard it.

The stable channel update also closes a total of 20 security holes, one of which is considered to be critical and eight that are rated as "high severity" by Google. These include a critical race condition following a utility process crash, and use-after-free issues in PDF garbage collection, in stylesheet error handling, in CSS handling, in SVG layout and mousemove events, as well as bad casts with column spans and a buffer overflow in locale handling. Other closed holes include five medium-severity and six low-severity issues.

The developers also note that half of the 20 bugs were detected using the AddressSanitizer, adding that a number of other security issues were fixed during the Chrome 17 development cycle. As part of its Chromium Security Rewards programme, Google paid security researchers more than $10,000 for discovering and reporting the holes. Further details of the vulnerabilities are being withheld until "a majority of users are up-to-date with the fix".

More details about the stable channel release can be found in a post on the Google Chrome Releases blog. Chrome 17.0.963.46 is available to download from for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux; alternatively, existing users can upgrade using the built-in update function.

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