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Google revs up Chrome, crushes bugs

Patches 24 vulnerabilities in first upgrade in nine weeks

Google on Thursday upgraded Chrome, improving the browser's start-up performance and patching two dozen security vulnerabilities.

Chrome 24 contained few major changes. That's typical, as Google usually refreshes its browser every six to eight weeks.

Google called out only a handful of improvements and additions, including faster start-up, another small speed uptick of Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine, and support for MathML (Mathematical Markup Language), which renders math formulas and symbols on browser pages.

The JavaScript performance boost was minor compared to Chrome 23, the version introduced nine weeks ago, but Google boasted that since October 2011, V8's speed has improved by 26%.

Coincidentally, rival Mozilla touted JavaScript enhancements this week too, claiming a new JIT (just in time) compiler improved Firefox 18's speed by 25%.

Chrome 24 also patched 24 vulnerabilities. Its security team labeled 11 of the flaws as "high," Google's second-most-serious threat rating, eight as "medium," and five as "low."

Three of the vulnerabilities were reported to Google by a quartet of outside researchers, who received $6,000 for their efforts as part of the search company's bounty program. Two of the four were Facebook researchers who together earned $4,000 for uncovering and reporting a bug in Chrome's "same origin policy," a security provision intended to block browser-based languages, including JavaScript, hosted on one domain from running on another.

Five of the flaws were "use-after-free" bugs, a type of memory allocation vulnerability that Chrome's security engineers have become adept at finding; and four, including one of the use-after-free vulnerabilities, that affected the browser's built-in PDF viewer.

Chrome 24 also included a new version of Adobe's Flash Player that contained a solo critical patch. Adobe had patched Flash for other browsers on Tuesday. It is rare for Chrome to lag behind Flash's patch pace; in several instances, a new Chrome update has hit Google's download servers before Adobe releases the fixes to the public.

Google updates Flash because it's responsible for maintaining the bundled copy of Flash Player inside Chrome. Google has baked Flash into Chrome since March 2010. Last year, Microsoft mimicked the practice by including Flash in Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), the Redmond, Wash., company's newest Windows 7 and Windows 8 browser.

Users can download Chrome 24 from Google's website. Active users can simply let the automatic updater retrieve the new edition.

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 email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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