Browser 'privacy modes' not so private after all
PC World - All the major web browsers have a privacy mode that's supposed to cover a user's tracks after he or she finishes an Internet session, but a trio of researchers have found those modes fail to purge all traces of a Net surfer's activities.
For instance, Mozilla Firefox has something called a "custom handler protocol" that creates URLs that hang around even after a user leaves privacy mode.
Internet Explorer also blows a user's cover in privacy mode when it initiates SMB requests with a Web server. "Even if the user is behind a proxy, clears the browser state, and uses InPrivate, SMB connections identify the user to the remote site," the researchers--Gaurav Aggarwal and Dan Boneh, of Stanford University, and Colin Jackson, of Carnegie Melon University--wrote in a paper scheduled to be presented next week at the Usenix Security Symposium in Washington, D.C.
However, the trio found that the SMB flaw may be negligible because many ISPs filter SMB port 445.
They also raised a red flag about the potential for browser add-ons to undermine privacy modes. "Browser add-ons (extensions and plug-ins) pose a privacy risk to private browsing because they can persist state to disk about a user's behavior in private mode," the researchers wrote.
"The developers of these add-ons may not have considered private browsing mode while designing their software and their source code is not subject to the same rigorous scrutiny that browsers are subjected to," they added.
The researchers also discovered a way for Webmasters to determine if a user was accessing their site in privacy mode. They acknowledged, however, that the technique exploited an attack that had already been fixed in Safari, was soon to be shut down in Firefox and was expected to be closed up soon in IE and Chrome.
The bottom line from the trio's travails: don't do anything in privacy mode that you wouldn't do with the boss looking over your shoulder.
- Data on the Move = Business on the Move; How Strategic Secure Managed File Transfer Adds Value and Drives Business This whitepaper describes the formal and informal file-sharing methods business employees use to perform their daily functions and explains that, from sending small...
- Path Selection Infographic Path Selection Infographic
- Hyperconvergence Infographic A wide range of observers agree that data centers are now entering an era of "hyperconvergence" that will raise network traffic levels faster...
- Preparing Your Infrastructure for the Hyperconvergence Era From cloud computing and virtualization to mobility and unified communications, an array of innovative technologies is transforming today's data centers.
- Supercharge Your Web and Mobile App Development with High-Productivity Hybrid Cloud Webinar: Hear from industry experts about the amazing power at the intersection of next-generation web and mobile application development and cloud platforms.
- Cloud Knowledge Vault Learn how your organization can benefit from the scalability, flexibility, and performance that the cloud offers through the short videos and other resources... All Internet White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!