Google patches 30 Chrome bugs, adds Instant Pages

Revs stable build of browser to version 13, debuts print preview for Windows, Linux

Google patched 30 vulnerabilities in Chrome today, paying out highest bounty total ever for the bugs that outsiders filed with its security team.

The company packaged the patches with an update to Chrome 13, adding Instant Pages to the "stable" channel of the browser. The feature, which Google earlier tucked into Chrome 13 previews, proactively pre-loads some search results to speed up browsing.

Google last upgraded Chrome's stable build in early June. Like Mozilla, which this year shifted to a rapid-release schedule, Google produces an update about every six-to-eight weeks.

Fourteen of the 30 vulnerabilities patched today were rated "high," the second-most-serious ranking in Google's four-step scoring system, while nine were pegged "medium" and the remaining seven were labeled "low."

None of the flaws were ranked "critical," the category usually reserved for bugs that may allow an attacker to escape Chrome's anti-exploit sandbox. Google has patched several critical bugs this year, the last time in April.

Most of the vulnerabilities rated as a high threat -- nine of the 14 -- were identified as "use-after-free" bugs, a type of memory management flaw that can be exploited to inject attack code.

As it always does, Google locked down the Chrome bug-tracking database for the 30 vulnerabilities to prevent outsiders from obtaining details on the underlying flaws. The company bars the public from the database to give users time to update, sometimes waiting months before lifting the embargo.

For example, only three of the 15 bugs Google patched on June 7 can yet be accessed by the public.

Google paid out $17,000 in bounties to 10 researchers who reported 17 of the vulnerabilities patched today, including $7,500 to a researcher identified as "miaubiz," and $3,000 to another frequent contributor, Sergey Glazunov.

Since Jan. 1, miaubiz has earned $22,500 in Chrome bounties.

Today's total was a record for Chrome bounties, edging the previous record of $16,500 set in April. So far this year, Google has paid out more than $111,000 to researchers.

Google also added several features to Chrome 13, with Instant Pages leading the list.

Instant Pages
This box in Chrome's Preferences/Options pane controls Instant Pages' pre-loading.

Although Chrome's beta builds have included Instant Pages since mid-June, this is the feature's first appearance in the stable channel. When enabled, Instant Pages pre-loads the top-ranked search result to Google's servers. The company claims that Instant Pages can trim several seconds off of wait times for pre-loaded results.

Users can turn off Instant Pages by selecting "Under the Hood" in the Preferences pane on the Mac or Options on Windows, then clearing the box marked "Predict network actions to improve page load performance" under the "Search" category.

Google has been on a mission to speed up browsing recently. Last week, for example, the company unveiled Page Speed Service, a hosted service that promises to boost site load times by as much as 60%.

Chrome 13 also includes print preview for Windows and Linux users -- the feature remains in testing on the Mac, but is available in the beta and dev channels of Chrome 14 for that OS -- and improvements to the "omnibox," the term Google uses for the combo address-search bar.

Chrome 13 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, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

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