Chrome 17 tweaks speed, download security

Small but important security changes arrive in Chrome 17 stable, along with a slight expansion of the browser's precognitive superpower.

Chrome 17 expands malware detection to some downloads.

(Credit: Google)

Safer downloads and a cautious expansion of site pre-caching land in Chrome 17 today, continuing Google's two-tiered approach to browser speed and user safety.

Google Chrome 17 stable for Windows (download), Mac (download), Linux (download), and Chrome Frame includes a number of new extension APIs and security fixes.

As revealed in the Chrome 17 beta version, Chrome's safe browsing technology will now scan downloads as well as Web sites. It looks for known malware files, and it analyzes installation files starting with Windows-based EXE and MSI. Google hasn't clarified if the scan will later include other Windows-based file types or installers from Mac and Linux operating systems. If a file is suspected of being malicious, meaning that it doesn't match a whitelist, Chrome will check it against Google's search index to see if the site you're downloading it from hosts a high number of known malicious downloads. If it determines the download to be unsafe, Chrome will barf up a red warning page.

The feature is important for blocking the threat of ransomware "fake antivirus" programs, among other things.

Speed has always been a focus of Chrome's developers, and in version 17 the browser extends the site pre-caching feature to the location bar Omnibox. If you have pre-caching activated in Settings, it will pre-load the first site that autocompletes its URL to a site you're likely to visit. If you choose that site, it will appear to load instantaneously.

Google did not specify what the new extension APIs were, although I recall at least one being related to privacy controls in extensions. Its SVN browser revision log was not working at the time of writing. There were, however, numerous security fixes revealed for Chrome 17. These included one marked Critical, which fixed a race condition after the crash of a utility process; and eight marked High, which fixed problems including use-after-free problems and buffer overflow issues. Click through to read the changelog for Chrome 17 stable.

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