Feeds

Most browsers leave fingerprint that can ID users

Your signature tested here

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.