by Matt Liebowitz

Google released the newest version of its Chrome Web browser, patching 20 security holes and adding a new feature to keep users automatically protected against dangerous downloads.

Released yesterday (Feb. 8), Chrome version 17.0.963.46 scans executable files (most have the “.exe” and “.msi” extensions) against a list of files known by Google to be offensive, as well as another list of safe downloadable files.

“If the executable doesn’t match a whitelist, Chrome checks with Google for more information, such as whether the website you’re accessing hosts a high number of malicious downloads,” Google software engineer Noé Lutz wrote in a blog post.

In automating the malware scan, this takes the onus off the user for determining which files are safe to download and which should be avoided.

Dennis Fisher, from the security vendor Kaspersky Lab, said the process is a “major upgrade” for Chrome.

“Attackers and malware authors often disguise their malicious files to look like legitimate files, giving them identical or similar names to common Windows executables, for example.” Fisher wrote. “For users, figuring out which ones are safe and which are dangerous can be a tall order.”

Along with this feature, Google fixed 20 vulnerabilities in Chrome 17, including eight high-priority glitches that could allow an outside party to gain unauthorized privileges on an infected computer.

For their work in detecting and reporting the bugs, Google paid $10,500 to researchers as part of its bug bounty program.

Google Chrome version 17 can be downloaded at If you use Chrome but aren’t sure if you’re running the updated version, go to the wrench icon in the top right corner, next to the URL bar, and click on “About Google Chrome.” Because Chrome updates itself, you should see a message reading, “Google Chrome is up to date.” If you don’t see that, and the “Update Now” tab is highlighted, click it.

No matter what Web browser you prefer, it’s important to keep it up to date to protect yourself from online threats and all sorts of viruses. For a list of the top 10 best Web browsers, click here.



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