Fixes in Chrome needed to mitigate the security flaws in computer processors that were disclosed at the beginning of the year will cause Google’s web browser to use significantly more memory, the company explained in a blog post.
The exploits were broadly split into two categories: Meltdown and Spectre.
Meltdown only affected Intel CPUs, while Spectre affected nearly all modern processors – including AMD and Intel CPUs, as well as ARM-based processors which are used in mobile phones.
The fixes Chrome rolled out affecting its RAM footprint are specific to Spectre.
Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications and allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets.
In fact, the safety checks of these best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre.
While Spectre is more difficult to exploit than Meltdown, it is also more difficult to patch.
To address the vulnerability, Chrome developers have rolled out a feature called Site Isolation, which offers more protection between websites behind the scenes.
“Site Isolation does cause Chrome to create more renderer processes, which comes with performance tradeoffs: on the plus side, each renderer process is smaller, shorter-lived, and has less contention internally, but there is about a 10-13% total memory overhead in real workloads due to the larger number of processes,” said Google.