You would be surprised how much information is available on your browser. Web browsing patterns always leave a trace that can be mined for data about the browser, and everything from locations to political affiliations can be determined by these tiny amounts of data. Traditionally this has been a treasure trove for advertisers looking for consumer purchasing patterns, but recent events have seen bad actors attempting to use this data for more malevolent purposes. While some browsers have options that automatically stop cookies and VPNs can mask the IP address of users, there is one other way that your data may be accessed by persistent individuals. More and more, browser fingerprints are being used to gain access to this vital data.
While it is not often discussed in the general community of internet users, browser fingerprinting is a growing concern in the security community. It is the practice that may identify an individual through unique patterns of information that are visible to a website when the computer makes a connection with that address. A surprising amount of this data is available, including everything from the browser version to the operating system it is installed on. A fingerprint may contain other telltale signs including hardware configurations, other software installed, and certain browser plugins. While this may sound like a paucity of data, the exact pattern may be so precise that virtually no one on the internet has the exact same pattern of information. Even one custom setting could differentiate your browser from millions of other users, and even keeping exact factory settings could make your browser just as unique.
The best way to protect yourself from those who are using browser fingerprints to track your online activities is to understand the methods that are used and thus the steps you can take to make it more difficult for them. One of the earliest methods was to focus on pixel resolution of the browser to include rendering and the unique speed of the operating system and hardware such as the processor and video card. Another method is to capture cookies faster and grab as much data as possible in the fractions of seconds it takes to delete them. Popular website including communication providers, social networks, dating sites, and even pornographic sites do this on a regular basis. The process of circumventing these efforts can be difficult, including purposeful manual changes of system settings between every browsing session to enhance anonymity. In some cases, swapping hardware may be necessary to ensure that the pattern-collecting efforts are broken.
As you may have gathered, preventing sites from tracking you via your browser fingerprint can be a lot of work. There may be better approaches to preventing browser fingerprinting than these laborious methods. A good first step may be creating baseline settings close to factory default and running your browser only from this "clean" machine. At the end of each session, system restore should be used to reduce the accumulation of data that may lead to an identification. If you need more information on how you can protect yourself and your data, Contact Us for more tips and tricks as well as software that may help.
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