Chrome preps psychic powers, security changes

The latest beta of Chrome can see just a little bit into your browsing future as it attempts to lock down the nasty threat of malicious installers.

Chrome's Omnibox is about to get precognitive powers

Google is preparing some important changes to Chrome's browsing behavior, with predictive powers and better download scanning protocol landing in the latest beta update.

Released today, Google Chrome 17 beta for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome Frame.

Of the multiple improvements and fixes noted in Google's Chrome 17 beta changelog, these two have the potential to affect users the most. The change in security behavior expands Chrome's safe browsing technology to scan not only Web sites visited, but downloads as well. It will analyze installation files downloaded with the browser, starting with Windows-based EXE and MSI. Google hasn't clarified if the scan will also include other Windows-based file types or installers from Mac and Linux operating systems. The feature is important for blocking the threat of ransomware "fake antivirus" programs, among other things.

While the feature is certainly appreciated for future threats, it's still a bit like closing the barn door long after the horse has bolted for the open plains. Fake antivirus has been plaguing Windows users for years, and last year made some notable attacks against Macs.

Chrome's pending psychic powers sound similar to technology in the Kindle Fire's Silk browser. As you type in a query into Chrome 17 beta's location bar, which Google calls the "omnibox," it will begin to load some pages in the background. "If the URL auto-completes to a site you're very likely to visit, Chrome will begin to prerender the page," wrote Dominic Hamon, a software engineer at Google in the blog post announcing the browser update. The pre-rendering makes the full site show up much faster, instantly in some cases, according to Google.