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How the Google Chrome Browser Works


Chrome Browser Security

If you're browsing the great unknown of the Web, one good feature to have in your Web browser is security. You probably don't want the browser to share your personal information without your permission. You also might want the browser to protect you if you stumble upon a malicious Web site.

Google has leveraged its power as a search engine to create its Safe Browsing technology. Safe Browsing will automatically warn you if Chrome detects that a site you're visiting contains malware or phishing. Other Web browsers offer similar safeguards, but they don't have the immense, constantly updated database of Web pages and their contents that Google does. For more on Web dangers, see our articles How to Avoid Spyware and How Phishing Works.

Another Chrome security feature is sandboxing. Sandboxing is a technical term meaning to separate processes out into independent spaces to see how they function individually. Chrome handles its workload as a series of multiple processes rather than as part of one large browser process. Each time you open a Web page, Chrome launches one or more new processes to run the scripts on that page. Also, each Chrome extension and app runs in its own process. Chrome implements sandboxing through its multi-process architecture. You can see a list of each process Chrome is running by clicking Settings, Tools and then Task Manager.

The security advantage in sandboxing comes from how Chrome implements this feature in Windows. Chrome controls the access token for each process in Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. On these operating systems, an access token for a process allows that process access to important information about your system, like its files and registry keys. Chrome intercepts each access token from the processes launched from the browser, and it modifies that token to limit its access to that information.

So, in Windows, Chrome's sandboxing helps block Web pages that try to install malware, capture your personal information or obtain data from your hard drive. It also prevents a page that's open in one browser tab from affecting what happens in other tabs. The drawback of sandboxing, though, is that it can't catch everything. A sandboxed process might still be able to access less secure file systems. It's also likely to miss protecting registry keys and files managed by third party software, like a game or chat program that isn't native to Windows [source: Sylvain].

In addition to these active security features, Chrome's auto-updates ensure that the browser checks for its own security updates at regular intervals. Security updates ensure that browsers are not vulnerable to Web sites that could exploit any known bugs in the software. Unlike IE and Firefox, which prompt you to install the latest updates when they're available, Chrome updates itself automatically with no interaction necessary.

So far, you've read about Chrome's advantages in speed and security and Google's goal to optimize the browser for Web applications. Next, let's zoom in on the Chrome basics to see just how simple this browser really is.