Publications about tracking and spying technologies

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Publications about tracking and spying technologies

Mass Surveillance by Eavesdropping on Web Cookies

Abstract: The autors investigate the ability of a passive network observer to leverage third-party HTTP tracking cookies for mass surveillance (like it is done by NSA). If two web pages embed the same tracker which emits a unique pseudonymous identifier, then the adversary can link visits to those pages from the same user (browser instance) even if the user’s IP address varies. Furthermore, almost half of the most popular web pages will leak a logged-in user’s real-world identity to an eavesdropper in unencrypted traffic. Together, these provide a novel method to link an identified individual to a large fraction of her entire web history.

Download: PDF (local cache) 900 kB, 22 pages, Englisch, draft released April 2014

FPDetective: Dusting the web for fingerprinters

Abstract: But security researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium recently found that 404 websites among the top million were using a JavaScript form of fingerprinting, and 97 among the top 10,000 were using a type of Flash fingerprinting. They also discovered vulnerabilities in privacy-enhancing tools, including the Tor browser, that would allow fingerprinting to identify users.

Download: PDF (local cache) 346 kB, 12 pages, Englisch, released 2013

Fingerprinting Canvas in HTML5

Abstract: Browser can use grafic hardware with WebGL in HTML5 ti improve rendering speed. Using a <canvas> element is was possible to create a new, high-entropy fingerprint based on the computer hardware used by websurfers.

Download: PDF (local cache) 530 kB, 12 pages, Englisch, released 2012-May

Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices

Abstract: Anytime you travel internationally, especially into the USA, you risk a broad, invasive search of your laptop, phone, and other digital devices – including the copying of your data and seizing of your property for an indefinite time. To help travelers protect themselves and their private information during the busy holiday travel period, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a report with important guidance for safeguarding your personal data at the U.S border. Use a second mobile phone without any personal data inside, and remove any sensitive data from your laptop. Encryption is not a good and sufficient idea, as it usually results in pasword request, and theft of the device if you refuse to reveal the password.

Download: (local cache) 1/2 MiB PDF, 24 pages, English, released 2011-December

Opinions on the "Staatstrojaner" (Germany)

Abstract: checking the "Staatstrojaner" against German law and recent judgements of the constitutional tribunal

Download: (local cache) 2.8 MiB, 66 pages, German only, released 2012-February

Website Fingerprinting in Onion Routing Based Anonymization Networks

Download: PDF (local cache) 460 kb, 11 pages, English, released 2011-October

Mike Perry wrote a Critique of Website Traffic Fingerprinting Attacks in real-world scenarios and shows defence options.

Schutzlücken durch Wegfall der Vorratsdatenspeicherung? Data retention in Germany

Abstract: Investigations by Max-Planck-Institut (MPI) für ausländisches und internationales Strafrecht (Institute for criminal law) about effect of preventive data retention. The conclusion is that there is no significant benefit (reduced occurrence of crime or improved investigation success rate) of data retention.

Download: Gutachten des MPI (local cache) 2.4 MiB, 292 pages, German only, released 2011-July

Identifying anonymous email authors (Stylometry)

Abstract: A team of researchers from Concordia University has developed an effective new technique to determine the authorship of anonymous emails. Tests showed their method has a high level of accuracy - and unlike many other methods of ascertaining authorship, it can provide presentable evidence in courts of law.

Download: p42-iqbal.pdf (lokale Kopie) 460 kB, 10 pages English, released 2011-March

Flash Cookies and Privacy II: Now with HTML5 and ETag Respawning

Abstract: In this followup study, we reassess the Flash cookies landscape and examine a new tracking vector, HTML5 local storage and Cache-Cookies via ETags. We found over 5,600 standard HTTP cookies on popular sites, over 4,900 were from third parties. Google-controlled cookies were present on 97 of the top 100 sites, including popular government websites. Seventeen sites were using HTML5, and seven of those sites had HTML5 local storage and HTTP cookies with matching values. Flash cookies were present on 37 of the top 100 sites. We found two sites that were respawning cookies, including one site – – where both Flash and cache cookies were employed to make identifiers more persistent. The cache cookie method used ETags, and is capable of unique tracking even where all cookies are blocked by the user and "Private Browsing Mode" is enabled.

Download: Social Science Research Network (local cache) 1.7 MiB PDF, released 2011

Find me if you can

Abstract: Improving geographical prediction with social and spatial proximity. The paper presents a measurement of the home position of facebook user by known position of friends. In case of 5 or more friends with known home position it outperforms geolocation by IP addresses.

Download: PDF (local cache), 1,6 MB, 10 pages English, released 2010

Challenges in Measuring Online Advertising Systems

Abstract: This paper takes a first principled look at measurement methodologies for ad networks. It proposes new metrics that are robust to the high levels of noise inherent in ad distribution, identifies measurement pitfalls and artifacts, and provides mitigation strategies. It also presents an analysis of how three different classes of advertising - search, contextual, and social networks, use user profile information today. (gay users outed to advertisers)

Download: Saikat Guha (local cache), 240kB, 7 pages, English, released 2010-November

Privacy-Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications

Abstract: The dynamic nature of JavaScript web applications has given rise to the possibility of privacy violating information flows. We present an empirical study of the prevalence of such flows on a large number of popular websites. Our survey shows that several popular sites, including Alexa global top-100 sites, use privacy-violating flows to exfiltrate information about users’ browsing behavior: cookie stealing, location hijacking, history sniffing, and behavior tracking.

Download: University of California, San Diego (local cache), 440kB, 14 pages, English, released 2010-October

Feasibility and Real-World Implications of Web Browser History Detection

Abstract: In a recent scientific paper, security researchers have shown any normal web page is able to get potentially private information from your Internet browser like your zipcode and your search queries' history (you will find a summary of this paper here). This attack uses the browser feature that shows links to web pages which you have seen before in a different color than "unvisited" links. This browser attack on your privacy seems extremely dangerous for the reason that it even works without JavaScript and active browser plugins.

Download: PDF (local cache) 220 kB, 8 pages, English, released 2010-Mai

Certified Lies - Detecting and Defeating Government Interception Attacks against SSL

Abstract: C. Soghoian and S. Stamm introduced a new attack, the compelled certificate creation attack, in which government agencies compel a certificate authority to issue false SSL certificates that are then used by intelligence agencies to covertly intercept and hijack individuals’ secure Web-based communications. They reveal alarming evidence that suggests that this attack is in active use.

Download: (local cache) 630 kB, 19 pages, English, released 2010-April

A Practical Attack to De-Anonymize Social Network Users

Abstract: Deanonymisation in the Social network Xing.

Download: Isec Forschungslabor für IT-Sicherheit (local cache) 550 kB, 15 pages, English, released 2010-January

Website Fingerprinting

Zusammenfassung: the paper present a novel method that applies common text mining techniques to the normalised frequency distribution of observable IP packet sizes. Our classifier correctly identifies up to 97% of requests on a sample of 775 sites and over 300,000 real-world traffic dumps recorded over a two-month period. It outperforms previously known methods like Jaccard's classifier and Naïve Bayes that neglect packet frequencies altogether or rely on absolute frequency values, respectively. Our method is system-agnostic: it can be used against any PET without alteration. Closed-world results indicate that many popular single-hop and even multi-hop systems like Tor and JonDonym are vulnerable against this general fingerprinting attack.

Download: Uni Regesburg (local cache) 330 kB, 12 pages, English, released 2009

Remote physical device fingerprinting by TCP timestamps

Abstract: The paper introduce the area of remote physical device fingerprinting, or fingerprinting a physical device, as opposed to an operating system or class of devices, remotely, and without the fingerprinted device's known cooperation. Example applications include: computer forensics, tracking (with some probability), counting the number of devices behind a NAT even when the devices use constant or random IP IDs and unanonymizing anonymized network traces.

Download: CAIDE, UC San Diego (local cache) 700 KB, 15 pages English, released 2005

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