Security (and other) Improvements in Google Chrome
The latest version of Google’s Chrome browser was released from beta testing on October 17. It contains some nifty new features that will make using the Web safer, faster, and more fun; but mostly, safer. Read on to see what’s new in Chrome 62…
Chrome 62 is More Secure
One of the upgrades is so important that it was actually rolled out a few days before Chrome 62’s release. It improves and simplifies the use of Chrome Cleanup, a feature of Chrome that helps users recover from browser hijackings. For the first time in Chrome, Cleanup can also remove unwanted software hidden in downloaded files.
PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) are things such as those annoying toolbars that may be hidden in or bundled with downloaded packages of software that you actually do want. Quite often when downloading a program, there's a bit of small print asking if you want to install another. The checkbox that indicates “yes” is already checked, so you get these tag-alongs if you're not diligent.
The list of PUPs is constantly expanding. So Google has partnered with ESET, one of the better antimalware software developers, to detect even the latest PUPs, offer to remove them, and restore any settings they may have changed. (See also my related article Do You Need a PUP Cleaner?)
Note that this improved version of Chrome Cleanup is available only on Windows machines. Let me stress that Chrome Cleanup is not a fully fledged anti-malware suite, so you should not uninstall your primary security software.
Some browser extensions change Chrome settings in ways that vex users and make money for bad guys; this is called “hijacking” the browser. Changing your default search engine and/or startup page may cause you to inadvertently go to a page that injects malware into your system, or one that bombards you with so many ads that Chrome becomes unusable. But now, when Chrome detects that settings have been changed without your consent, it offers to restore the settings to their original values.
Hit the Reset Button
You can also manually reset by going to chrome://settings/resetProfileSettings. A popup window will appear, displaying this explanation of the “reset” option:
“This (clicking the “Reset” button) will reset your startup page, new tab page, search engine, and pinned tabs. It will also disable all extensions and clear temporary data like cookies. Your bookmarks, history and saved passwords will not be cleared. Learn more" If you want to change other settings, just hit “Cancel” to see the Chrome settings page.
Disabling all of your Chrome extensions will ensure that any unwanted or malicious extensions are prevented from operating, but it might go a bit too far for some users. If you use this reset option, I'd advise you to visit your Chrome Extensions page to see if there are any extensions that you do want to re-enable.
Google has campaigned for years to get all website developers to implement encrypted HTTPS connections, protecting users’ data as it flows back and forth over the Internet. In January of this year, Chrome began flagging sites with a “Not Secure” tag at the left side of the address bar if the user was prompted to enter password or credit card data in a form. With Chrome 62, the flag appears whenever any type of data is requested by a form. Also, the “Not Secure” tag appears the moment you open an unencrypted connection to a site in an incognito window, even if there is no form on a page.
Before 2014, only about 50% of sites implemented HTTP encryption. After Google warned webmasters that unencrypted HTTP connections would adversely affect a site’s Google Search rankings, use of HTTPS expanded; today, about 75% of sites use encrypted connections. With these changes in Chrome 62, Google is further pressuring sites to implement HTTPS.
More to Come
Other new features in Chrome include OpenType Variable Fonts, a Network Information API, and a really cool Ambient Light Sensor API. These features can make a site load faster and look better, if its developers implement the Chrome features.
OpenType Variable Fonts provide more options for displaying fonts. The Network Information API can inform a site of a user’s actual connection speed, so a faster-loading page can be sent to the user if s/he is on a slow connection. The Ambient Light Sensor API allows sites to adapt to a user’s ambient light intensity, so sites will be easier on the eyes. I assume this feature makes use of the camera or other sensors in a smartphone or laptop, so it may not work on old-school desktop PCs. In any case, these are potential features; it’s up to web developers to implement them.
Chrome 62 will be pushed to all Chrome users over the next few weeks. If you want it right now, click on the three-dots icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome’s window, hover the cursor over Help, and then click on “About Google Chrome.” Chrome will automatically check for available updates and install Chrome 62. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Oct 2017
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved