Browser Fingerprinting - How to Guard against It
Most Internet users know they can’t take their online privacy for granted. Despite many safeguards, hackers are constantly developing innovative new tactics, now including a serious, seldom-mentioned threat to privacy called browser fingerprinting. This article details that tracking technique and steps you can take to defend against it.
Browser fingerprinting collects user information from a wide range of data points to build a profile of the user on the Internet. Trackers get a detailed record of websites visited, favorites, social platforms, searches conducted, and more. For all practical purposes, each profile is unique, especially as it includes a user’s IP address. And if you’ve been “fingerprinted” – for example, by a website you’ve visited – the collector has stored information about your browser type and version, your operating system, browser extensions, active plugins, time zone, language, screen resolution, and other components of your profile, ones that hardly anybody else matches.
An advantage for the profiler is in the ability to target you with highly personalized ads. With that intent, it’s likely that a good many companies have your information now, even if you’ve configured your browser to show that you don’t want to be tracked or targeted. Moreover, you may not discover that websites are tracking and storing information about you. And you can’t tell if someone with the wrong intent will get hold of your information. So the issues are loss of privacy online and possible misuse of your data.
How ProxyMesh helps
Your IP address is a keystone of the unique online identity avidly sought for ad-targeting. That’s because it must reveal its identity when sending a data request or receiving a response. And the IP address is a unique string of numbers identifying your device. It could also be used to track sites you visit, the device you’re using, and even your geolocation. So, without your IP address, a browser fingerprint isn’t complete.
ProxyMesh shields your true IP address with IPs from datacenter proxies. Moreover, the proxies give you a fresh IP address with every new data request, and rotate all IP addresses every 12 hours. So if hackers were to penetrate your mask, you could easily get a new one.
See ProxyMesh Security for the ways ProxyMesh uses security measures on all levels of the system to protect your data.
What you can do
In addition to proxying, you have various options available for covering up your fingerprints online.
First of all, be informed. Learn as much as you can about how websites interact with your browser and how they obtain information. Be conscious of everything you do on the Internet, and of its possible consequences.
- Where possible, use incognito mode or private windows.
- Implement security plugins.
- Disable Flash, which stores information usable in fingerprinting. Be aware that some loss of performance may result from disabling Flash.
- Install anti-malware tools.
- Install an ad blocker. This helps ward off cookies, which store information about your browsing activity, habits, and interests.
Find out about your browser fingerprint
Several online tools enable you to test your browser identity. For example, you can use Am I Unique, or Unique Machine or Panopticlick [a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)] to reveal whether your device is unique, or nearly so, a gauge of how completely websites can pinpoint you for those invasive targeted ads.
Each tool has its own set of methods, but generally they test a comprehensive list of data points, such as cookies enabled, platform used, type and version of browser – and whether tracking cookies are blocked. The results show the specific information your browser is providing to the server.
Canvas vs. cookies
Browser fingerprinting technology can make you far more vulnerable online than ordinary cookie-based tracking. A relatively new and very challenging technique of involves
canvas. An element of HTML5,
canvas was developed to standardize video playing on the web. But hackers discovered it could also be used to identify visitors to a site that uses that element. It is much harder to combat than cookies, which users can detect and erase on their computers. Unlike cookies, canvas fingerprinting takes place without your knowledge on the sites you visit, rather than on your own computer.
And, by providing anonymity with rotating IPs, proxy servers can help you bypass browser fingerprinting and secure your identity.