Chrome gobbles more RAM due to Spectre CPU protection measures


While it's good news that Chrome has added protection against Spectre side-channel attacks, the browser's increased memory usage won't be welcomed by many Chrome users who often complain about the amount of RAM it consumes, especially those using devices with 4GB RAM or less.

The feature, which is enabled by default, is created to protect against Spectre's side-channel attacks.

Site isolation has been available in Chrome as an optional mitigation since early this year, but starting with version 67, it's being enabled by default for 99 percent of users.

Google has been testing Chrome site isolation since version 63, but has now decided the feature is ready for prime time to help mitigate Spectre attacks. That feature causes Chrome to render more processes and according to software engineer Charlie Reis leads to more memory overhead.

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By splitting a website's data into different rendering processes, Chrome's essentially isolating your private information from an attacker's website or scripts.

Note that Site Isolation increases the memory usage of the browser and that Google mentioned that it has to address known issues that still exist.

With Site Isolation, a single page may now be split across multiple renderer processes, preventing bad sites from snooping on legit ones.

The Spectre fighting tech will roll out this week with Chrome 67 featuring a Site Isolation feature that is on by default.

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As long as you see the subframe processes, Site Isolation is enabled on your system. This way, if a website does trigger a Spectre attack, other open web pages won't be affected. Site isolation is a significant change to Chrome's behavior under the hood, but unfortunately, it takes about 10-13% more RAM than before.

This is a major change to the previous multi-process architecture in Chrome in which there were ways to connect to other sites in the same process using iframes or cross-site pop-ups.

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.

"Experimental enterprise policies for enabling Site Isolation will be available in Chrome 68 for Android, and it can be enabled manually on Android using chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process".

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Google has switched on a defensive technology in Chrome that will make it much more hard for Spectra-like attacks to steal information such as log-on credentials.