What Your Browser Says About You

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Another day, another round of Facebook and privacy articles.


However, today I came across another article that took me back to the old days, when privacy concerns centered around browsers and your browsing history. The article, "On the Web, your browser history is an open book," was published on Sunbelt Blog and focuses on a paper by researchers Artur Janc and Lukasz Olejnik. As is reported in the blog, the paper:


describes how a decade-old "feature" of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allows Web sites to tap the "visited" pseudoclass and read a visitor's browser history.

This leaves browsers vulnerable to attacks. Dan Goodin wrote in a piece for The Register that these attacks expose detailed information about viewing habits, including news articles they've read and the Zip Codes they've entered into online forms. He continued:

Researchers showed how webmasters can launch attacks that detect Zip Codes entered into weather or movie listings sites, find search terms entered into Google and Bing, and discover specific articles viewed on Wikileaks and dozens of popular news sites.

Separate research released earlier this week showed that 84 percent of browser users leave digital fingerprints that can uniquely identify them. It stands to reason that attacks that combine both methods could unearth even more information most presume is private.

Since many people enter personal information on computers connected through company websites, it is likely these vulnerabilities in browser history also leave business information open to attack.


This is an issue that faces every browser. While developers work on plug-ins and work-arounds to fix the problem, there is one solution enterprise and individuals might want to employ, according to the Sunbelt Blog: Turn off the browser history.