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One way to increase security in the Google Chrome web browser is to enable strict site isolation, which makes each page rendering process include pages from only one site at a time, essentially putting them in a sandbox per site.
Theoretically, this could help mitigate certain security risks, such as those from Meltdown and Specter threats, but it should not be seen as a substitute for simply keeping the Chrome web browser up so far with the latest versions often containing different security patches.
Strict site isolation is considered a ‘highly experimental’ security mode, and while it’s easy to enable in Google Chrome, there are some potential drawbacks, mostly related to resource usage.
How to Enable site isolation in Google Chrome
You can enable strict site isolation in Google Chrome for Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS and Android. Here’s how:
- Open the Google Chrome browser if you haven’t already
- In the URL address bar, enter the following:
- Find ‘Strict Site Isolation’ and click ‘Enable’ button to the right
- Click on ‘Restart now’ button in the bottom corner to exit and reopen Chrome for the change to take effect
chrome: // flags / # enable-site-per-process
Once Chrome restarts site isolation feature will be enabled and each unique website should be placed in its own Chrome process sandbox.
The explanation of Strict Site Isolation provided in Chrome settings is as follows: “Very experimental security mode that ensures that each renderer process contains pages from one site at most. In this mode, frames are used outside of the process when an iframe is cross-site. “
However, a much more detailed explanation of site isolation is described on the Chromium site as follows:
Site Isolation is an experimental security feature in Chrome that provides extra protection against certain types of security bugs. It makes it more difficult for untrusted websites to access or steal information from your accounts on other websites.
Websites typically cannot access each other’s data in the browser, thanks to code that enforces the Same Origin policy. Occasionally, security flaws are encountered in this code and malicious websites may try to bypass these rules to attack other websites. The Chrome team tries to fix such bugs as soon as possible.
Site Isolation provides a second line of defense to ensure that such attacks are less likely to succeed. It ensures that pages from different websites are always placed in different processes, each in a sandbox that restricts what the process is allowed to do. It also blocks the process of receiving certain types of sensitive documents from other sites. As a result, a malicious website will find it more difficult to steal data from other sites, even if it can break some rules in its own process.
What’s the downside to enabling site isolation in Chrome?
Perhaps the most notable drawback is that this is made possible feature can lead to more memory and resource usage by Chrome, especially if you use and maintain many tabs and windows at once.
Since it is experimental, there may be other issues with the feature, but when tested with a few dozen unique tabs open, the most noticeable difference is simply an increase in memory usage from various Chrome Helper tasks.
Chrome acknowledges that certain developer tools will also not work as expected, but should affect less casual users.
If you are interested, you can learn more about Site Isolation in Chrome by checking out this Chromium page on the topic, and you can find many other Chrome pages tips here if you are interested in another interesting features and capabilities of the cross-platform web browser.
Whether you enable Site Isolation in Chrome or not, for optimal security, don’t forget to update your web browser software regularly when updates become available.
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