A New Hidden Way of Web Browser Profiling, Identification and Tracking

Researchers from Austria’s Graz University of Technology “have devised an automated system for browser profiling using two new side channel attacks that can help expose information about software and hardware,” reports The Register.

The researchers recently presented a paper titled “JavaScript Template Attacks: Automatically Inferring Host Information for Targeted Exploits,” which The Register says “calls into question the effectiveness of anonymized browsing and browser privacy extensions… ”

Long-time Slashdot reader Artem S. Tashkinov shared their report:
One of the side-channel attacks developed for JavaScript Template Attacks involve measuring runtime differences between two code snippets to infer the underlying instruction set architecture through variations in JIT compiler behavior. The other involves measuring timing differences in the memory allocator to infer the allocated size of a memory region.

The boffins’ exploration of the JavaScript environment reveals not only the ability to fingerprint via browser version, installed privacy extension, privacy mode, operating system, device microarchitecture, and virtual machine, but also the properties of JavaScript objects. And their research shows there are far more of these than are covered in official documentation. This means browser fingerprints have the potential to be far more detailed — have more data points — than they are now.

The Mozilla Developer Network documentation for Firefox, for example, covers 2,247 browser properties. The researchers were able to capture 15,709. Though not all of these are usable for fingerprinting and some represent duplicates, they say they found about 10,000 usable properties for all browsers.

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