Feeds

Most browsers leave fingerprint that can ID users

Your signature tested here

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The vast majority of people surfing the web leave behind digital fingerprints that can be used to uniquely identify them, research released Monday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests.

Using a website that compares visitors' browser configurations to a database of almost 1 million other users, EFF researchers found that 84 percent of visitors used setting combinations that were unique. When The Register visited the site using Firefox, it received a message that read: "Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 837,411 tested so far." (Turning off javascript and Java with the NoScript plugin didn't change the results we got on one test PC, but on a second machine, use of NoScript significantly increased the number of browsers with the same fingerprint.)

EFF said that its logs are anonymized, but there's nothing stopping the organization - or indeed, any website in the world - from constructing a database of digital fingerprints belonging to each person who visits the site.

"In fact, several companies are already selling products that claim to use browser fingerprinting to help websites identify users and their online activities," EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley said in a release. "This experiment is an important reality check, showing just how powerful these tracking mechanisms are."

EFF's "panopticlick" website examines user agents, HTTP_ACCEPT Headers and dozens of other browser characteristics to calculate how many other visitors to the site displayed the same combination of settings. It then offers a variety of steps users can take to prevent their browser from displaying unique traits that can be tracked.

A PDF of the EFF's whitepaper is here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.