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One Thing Hackers Do Not Want You To Know

January 06 2011

be differentTechnology has spawned some interesting terms like phishing and spamming. The latest conversation in the privacy world is about ‘history sniffing’.

What is history sniffing and why do we care?

When you click on a link on a website, the color changes from blue to purple (by default). Browser history sniffing compares the colors of links in your history folder to a master list of links (and their default non-visited colors) maintained by a website operator, who accesses your computer without permission. A color mismatch indicates a particular site has been visited.

Why is this important?

Website owners can see which site you have been visiting and glean valuable marketing information as to where to advertise their services as well as know about personal interests you would rather keep private. Advertising companies can exploit the data to build user profiles, and fraudsters could monitor which financial websites you visit to figure out which fake banking site they should use to launch a phishing attack that is likely to succeed.

I know this is somewhat disconcerting but there is help on the way. Clearing your browser history is one thing you can do to help prevent browser history sniffing. Another is to update your browser and Flash plug-ins regularly. Google’s Chrome browser doesn’t save history as such. Firefox has an upgrade on the way and Microsoft recently announced that Internet Explorer would add protectionMicrosoft recently announced that Internet Explorer would add protection.

There is legal action afoot to help eliminate this practice. A suit was recently filed in the U.S. District Court in California that accuses the website YouPornaccuses the website YouPorn of violating a number of laws and the plaintiffs are requesting, among other things, an injunction to stop history sniffing practices. Another suit was recently filed in New York against McDonald's, CBS, Mazda and Microsoft as well as behavioral advertiser Interclick for alleged violation of privacy.


If you want to find out what information is available about you in cyberspace, check out the website 'What the Internet knows about you'. As always, stay aware and alert as to what you choose to make public and what you want to keep private. Remember, you can control what information you give out. Though sometimes it is a little less convenient to maintain your privacy, there are many times I feel it is worth it.

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