Google patches 27 Chrome bugs, pays out record bounties

Revs stable browser to version 11, adds speech input

Google today patched 27 vulnerabilities in Chrome as it boosted the "stable" build of the browser to version 11 on Windows, Mac and Linux.

The company paid out a record $16,500 in bounties to researchers who reported a majority of the bugs, beating the previous biggest payday by several hundred dollars.

Wednesday's 27-patch update fixed 18 vulnerabilities rated "high," the second-most-severe ranking in Google's scoring; six labeled "medium"; and three pegged as "low."

None of the vulnerabilities was ranked "critical," the category reserved for bugs that may let an attacker escape Chrome's anti-exploit "sandbox." Google has patched three critical bugs so far this year.

Five of the vulnerabilities were identified as "stale pointer" bugs, a term that describes flaws in an application's -- in this case, Chrome's -- memory allocation code. Google has patched numerous stale pointer bugs in the last four months.

Other flaws fixed today could be used by attackers to spoof the contents of the address bar -- a bug that typically gets the attention of phishers and identity thieves -- or to compromise the browser with malicious SVG files.

As is its practice, Google locked its bug tracking database to bar outsiders from viewing the technical details of the just-patched vulnerabilities. The company blocks public access to flaws for weeks or even months to give users time to update.

Today's bounties totaled $16,500, handed out to 11 researchers for finding and reporting 17 of the patched vulnerabilities. Frequent contributor Sergey Glazunov took home $4,000, as did another researcher identified only as "kuzzcc."

So far this year, Google has spent more than $77,000 on bug bounties.

Of the five major browser makers, only Google and Mozilla -- the developer of Firefox -- pay bounties to independent security researchers.

Alongside the security update, Google also moved Chrome's stable channel -- the browser comes in three editions, stable, beta and dev -- to version 11. The upgrade to Chrome 11 came six weeks after Google last refreshed the stable channel to version 10.

Since last summer, Google has been releasing new versions of Chrome approximately every six weeks. Mozilla recently decided to ape that pace. Starting with Firefox 5, now set to ship June 21, it will theoretically put out a new edition at six-to-eight-week intervals.

While Google listed more than 3,700 changes in Chrome 11, the only one it highlighted was the speech input feature.

"Speech input through HTML is one of many new Web technologies in the browser that help make innovative and useful Web applications like Google Translate's speech feature possible," said software engineer Josh Estelle in a Wednesday blog post.

From within Chrome, users can speak into their computer's microphone to translate text into another language through Google Translate.

The combination of Chrome and Google Translate isn't flawless. In several quick tests by Computerworld, the browser and service transcribed most phrases accurately, but in one instance heard "Good morning, sister ship" when the line was actually "Good morning, Mr. Smith."

Chrome 11 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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