advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Web Browser Private Modes A Little Leaky

Written by Frank Hayes
August 12th, 2010

In Web browsers, privacy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A university study released Wednesday (Aug. 11) says the “privacy mode” available in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari Web browsers aren’t as secure from prying eyes as users might hope. All four browsers can leak information to some degree, ranging from leaving traces in a PC’s memory to displaying cookies when in private mode, according to a report from the research teams at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon.

The study also points to an interesting project by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) called Panopticlick, which tries to uniquely identify a user through information the Web browser can’t hide, such as screen resolution, plug-ins, time zone and fonts. The EFF claims it can use that information to identify a browser returning to the site 99 percent of the time, even if it’s in private mode. Fortunately, that still doesn’t expose more information than a cookie.

For retailers, the Stanford/Carnegie Mellon report is a mixed bag. If you had ideas about protecting users from identity theft by encouraging them to use private mode, you may be looking for trouble–any security advice that doesn’t work could be an invitation to a lawsuit. On the other hand, the researchers say that according to their tests, at least 90 percent of users currently don’t use private mode while they’re shopping online. In the case of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, only 1 percent shop privately.

That may mean users–and their password and payment-card information–are a little less safe than they could be. But it also means the features that private mode usually blocks, including cookies and other customer-tracking techniques, will work fine for the vast majority of retailers.

Most of the information leakage the researchers turned up from the browsers is the sort of thing only forensic detectives would be likely to find: DNS caches not flushed, swap files not cleared, memory not overwritten, SSL certificates preserved. That’s not information available to thieves who don’t have physical access to the users’ PCs.


advertisement

Comments are closed.

Newsletters

StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!
advertisement

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk
Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.