Risk
9/22/2010
12:12 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

The Cookies You Can't Remove

They say that some things last forever, like diamonds or true love or Twinkies. But should browser cookies used for tracking be added to that list?

They say that some things last forever, like diamonds or true love or Twinkies. But should browser cookies used for tracking be added to that list?Well, whether cookies should or should not last forever, a new JavaScript API is certainly making it a possibility, and also making it much harder for Web users to protect their privacy.

Evercookie was developed by developer and security hacker Samy Kamkar and it uses fairly simple and straightforward web and browser technologies to make it possible for sites, advertising networks and more nefarious people to add a tracking cookie to your browser that will last, essentially, forever.

Evercookie does this by placing cookie data in several places within the browser, including the standard cookie cache, browser history, even within a specialized image file. Evercookie also utilizes new data storage features in HTML 5.

Even worse, the whole system is self-repairing, meaning that if you fail to delete all of the areas where an evercookie is hiding, the hidden cookie will be able to restore all of its deleted brethren.

One can easily think of many ways where this technology could be abused, and I don't just mean by pushy ad networks that want to track every site you go to. Think about the recent Twitter problem, where many people were sent unwittingly to porn sites. What if these sites used an evercookie? And of course this technology could prove to be very popular to phishing sites.

This technology bothers me for several reasons, above and beyond the abuse of privacy.

First, it resists the will of the user. If someone takes the time to go into their browser settings and delete the cookie for Scumbag Networks, then those cookies should disappear. By explicitly ignoring the user's request, evercookies are no better than an Uninstall program that not only doesn't uninstall the app but also adds new applications (including spyware).

Also, this technology breaks the compromise between privacy geeks and vendors and advertising and search networks.

For the most part, privacy geeks are happy if they have the tools to protect their privacy and the vendors and tracking networks will be happy in the knowledge that the vast majority of users will never bother to use privacy tools.

Of course, it's only a matter of time until some of the popular privacy tools and hopefully the browsers themselves, are able to fully remove evercookies. And while it's not totally clear right now, there's good evidence that browser-extensions like NoScript should be able to stop evercookies.

Right now this is new. But since the code has been fully posted and is open source, it's only a matter of time until evercookies start to pop-up on the web. And privately, just between me and you, I think that stinks.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Security Technologies to Watch in 2017
Emerging tools and services promise to make a difference this year. Are they on your company's list?
Flash Poll
Secure Application Development - New Best Practices
Secure Application Development - New Best Practices
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.