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02 December 2010, 14:24

Chrome to run Flash Player in a sandbox

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Chrome Logo The latest developer version (dev channel) of the Chrome browser for Windows is equipped with a sandbox for running Adobe's Flash plug-in. If an attacker succeeds in exploiting a security vulnerability in the plug-in, the sandbox should cushion the worst of the blow by blocking access to critical system files. Abobe Flash Player is a godsend for attackers, because almost everyone has it installed on their system and new vulnerabilities in Flash are constantly being discovered.

Google is planning to expand this additional layer of security – the current version is said to be just a first step towards reducing the attack surface. The development team also plans to add the Flash sandbox to Chrome builds for other platforms. The sandbox can be disabled from the command line using the argument --disable-flash-sandbox. Chrome has come equipped with the latest version of the Flash plug-in, which it updates automatically, since mid 2010.

Since version 6, Chrome has included a light-weight PDF viewer, likewise executed in a sandbox. Chrome's rendering and JavaScript engines have long been isolated from the system. Adobe too recognises the benefits of an additional protective layer – the rendering engine for the latest version of its PDF viewer (version X) also runs in a sandbox.

According to Google, XP users in particular will benefit from this feature, as Chrome is the only browser capable of running Flash in a sandbox under XP. Versions 7 and later of Internet Explorer offer a similar protection mechanism under Windows Vista and 7, a protection mechanism which Flash Player does make use of, in the form of protected mode.


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