Yandex launches Chromium-based Web browser with security extras

Chromium-based Yandex Browser features process sandboxing, a file scanner from Kaspersky Lab and Opera's Turbo technology

Russian Internet services and Web search company Yandex released its own browser on Monday, following a similar move by competitor Mail.ru last week.

The new Yandex Browser is largely based on Chromium, the open-source browser that serves as the foundation for Google Chrome. As a result, it uses the WebKit browsing engine and Google's V8 JavaScript engine.

In addition, Yandex Browser has Chromium's tab process separation and process sandboxing features and also includes Adobe's Flash Player plug-in and a PDF viewer from Foxit Software.

Both the Flash Player plug-in and the PDF viewer are sandboxed, Vladimir Isaev, Yandex's manager of international media relations, said Monday via email.

However, the Yandex Browser development team didn't borrow everything from the Chromium project. For example, instead of using Google's Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) for malicious URL blocking, the Yandex Browser relies on a similar technology developed by Yandex and used on its Web search service to flag malicious search results.

"We do have our own security platform that lets us check more than 20 million Web pages daily and finds about 2,000 new hosts containing malware," Isaev said. "As a search engine we notify users about potential vulnerabilities on our search result pages (actually we show about 5 million alerts daily)."

Yandex has also partnered with Russian antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab to integrate a file scanner into the browser. The component checks all downloaded files against a list of known malicious files that gets updated over the Internet, Isaev said.

"Yandex integrated Kaspersky SafeStream II technology which includes a set of AV [antivirus] signatures designed to protect against the most dangerous and widespread malware," said Konstantin Matyukhin, Kaspersky Lab's account manager for technology alliances, via email. "These AV signatures are used to scan every file which is downloaded through the browser. Thus it creates an additional layer of protection for a PC."

"We believe security is a big focus for all developers today," Isaev said. As more users come to the Internet, more malware is being created, he said.

Aside from security, the Yandex Browser development team also took performance aspects into consideration. In order to help users with slow Internet connections, Yandex incorporated Opera's Turbo technology into the new browser.

When Opera Turbo is enabled, the browser's HTTP requests -- not the HTTPS (HTTP Secure) ones -- are passed through proxy servers operated by Opera. The servers then download the requested pages, compress them and serve smaller versions of those pages back to the browser. Opera Turbo has been a feature in the Opera browser since 2009.

As expected, Yandex Browser was built specifically to promote and provide easy access to Yandex's services, which include Web search, email, maps, cloud-based storage and more. Yandex's main market is Russia, but the company also operates in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Turkey.

Yandex Browser can run on Windows or Max OS X and its default language is Russian. The browser's language can also be switched to English, but that's mostly to accommodate Russian-speaking users who prefer their software user interfaces in English, Isaev said.

Late last week, Russian Internet services company Mail.ru, one of Yandex's primary competitors, launched Amigo, a Chromium-based Web browser that focuses on better integration with social media websites. Mail.ru also offers a more general-purpose Chromium-based browser called "Internet."

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