It is very difficult to work on the Internet anonymously, without leaving a “digital footprint” behind. There are many ways to find out if not the identity, then at least some key parameters of the user, including age, social status, gender, wealth, etc. That is, you go online, and he already knows approximately how much you earn and where you go on vacation.

In order not to give anyone information about yourself, you need to install protection. In this article, let’s understand the basic terms. We tell you what anonymity, uniqueness and de-anonymization are.

Anonymity

It is a way of staying unnoticed. Unless special technology is used, a user leaves behind a trail of traces on the Internet: visiting different sites, ordering goods, paying for services, exchanging messages with other users.

If you think that hiding IP might help you to stay invisible, it’s not true. You leave logs on the servers of your provider, authorize in social networks and sites. If you want, you can get detailed information about the resources you have visited. Browser history can also be read by spyware, spyware, which in many cases is considered quite benign by anti-viruses without showing notifications to users.

Staying anonymous online is very difficult. It requires special technologies, both software and hardware.

Uniqueness

This is the collection of elements of the “digital footprint” left by the user to form a fingerprint of his browser or device. A person’s identity cannot be found out this way, but most companies that form such fingerprints or buy them from their partners, such as social networks, do not need to.

A fingerprint is formed by collecting and analyzing a user’s browser cookies, as well as other user traces, including Canvas fingerprints, WebGL fingerprints, and Front fingerprints. To form such a fingerprint, you only need to visit a site that collects such information once. This site can be a social network, online store, news portal, etc. If in the future to use the same device and browser to access the network, the unique fingerprint will be identified without problems – even if you change or hide the IP and MAC-address.

It is also possible to make a fingerprint of the device, it is called HWID. When you install a game or program on your phone or computer, you may not even suspect that you are voluntarily transmitting data. The fingerprint will store the serial numbers of items on the device, such as the motherboard or data drive. HWID is mostly used to identify “hardware” by licensed software.

In many cases the collected user fingerprints are passed on to a third party – the data benefits commercial companies, which can then offer the user relevant products and services.

For example, Amazon changes the prices of its products 2.5 million times a day based on anonymized data about its customers. To two users, Amazon may show a different price for the same product. Simply because the system knows that the first user is willing to pay more than the second.

There are tens of thousands of companies collecting and trading user information. An example is Spokeo, Whitepages, PeopleFinder. They are all called information brokers. You can remove your own data, even impersonal ones, from the general database. But this is not easy to do, you have to draw up the necessary documents, communicate with company managers, and go through all the bureaucratic hurdles.

By the way, a few years ago there appeared on the market services which ensure that no information about certain people appears in the databases of information brokers. We are talking about the clients of these “protective” services. The service costs about $129 a year.

De-anonymization

This is the establishment of a user’s identity or his exact place of access to the network. De-anonymization can be active or passive.

Active – when someone takes active steps to identify the user. This can be an attacker using different types of attacks, including a JavaScript attack. The cybercriminal aims to gain access to the data stored by the browser: the IP address, the list of visited sites, saved documents, the list of social networks where the victim is registered.

Passive: analysis of a user’s identity without the use of malicious attacks. A passive system of deanonymization is also an analysis of a user’s network traffic. But in this case it is difficult to talk about full disclosure of the identity, because the analysis of traffic does not always make it possible to identify the person.

Conclusions

You may think that no one is interested in your data, but that is not true. Marketing agencies, online stores, and intruders are always looking for a way to get as much personalized data about your users as possible. They use this information for different purposes, but almost always without users’ permission or notification. This is why it is important to protect personal data on the Internet as much as possible.

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