Risk
2/1/2011
07:22 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Usage Of Flash To Recreate Deleted Cookies Minimal

But research suggests regulation may be needed to deal with that companies that track Internet users in contravention of privacy controls.

The good news is that zombie cookies -- deleted HTTP cookies that have been resurrected through Adobe Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs) -- are rare.

The bad news is that lack of visibility into Internet marketers' tracking practices makes self-regulation a dubious strategy for averting potential privacy problems.

A study published on Monday by Carnegie Mellon researchers Aleecia M. McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor, "A Survey of the Use of Adobe Flash Local Shared Objects to Respawn HTTP Cookies," has found that misuse of Adobe's Flash technology to rebuild deleted HTTP cookies isn't as widespread as some have feared.

LSOs are Flash's version of HTTP cookies. Few computer users are familiar with them but they present even greater potential for privacy problems because they can be read from any browser, because they're don't expire, and because they can store more data and more complex data types than HTTP cookies.

Because they can be uniquely identified, LSOs present similar privacy problems to cookies while being less affected by user choice. As the study explains, marketers turned to LSOs to address the data quality problems created by the deletion of cookies by Internet users. But doing so flouts users' expressed desire for privacy.

The researchers found no evidence of cookie respawning at 500 randomly selected Web sites and only two instances of resurrected cookies at the 100 most popular Web sites. They also found that LSOs were being used as unique identifiers at 9% of the most popular 100 Web sites and at 3.4% of the 500 randomly selected Web sites.

"We found respawning is currently rare but sites still use LSOs as persistent identifiers..., which may or may not have privacy implications...," the study states.

The researchers suggest that Adobe should take a more proactive role in making it clear that LSOs should not be used to uniquely identify computers and in providing developers with strong privacy guidance and tools. The researchers claim that just over 40% of sites save LSO data, which they interpret as a sign that Flash developers may not understand the privacy implications of LSOs.

They also express skepticism about the ongoing viability of self-regulation. "It is difficult to find calls for a purely industry self-regulation approach to Internet privacy credible when industry demonstrates willingness to violate user intent and privacy as demonstrated by using LSOs to respawn HTTP cookies or individually identify computers," they state.

With the Federal Trade Commission mulling privacy rules after years of hands-off policy, not to mention a slew of recent lawsuits over alleged privacy violations related to tracking, the era of lightly regulated online marketing may be coming to an end.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0485
Published: 2014-09-02
S3QL 1.18.1 and earlier uses the pickle Python module unsafely, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted serialized object in (1) common.py or (2) local.py in backends/.

CVE-2014-3861
Published: 2014-09-02
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in CDA.xsl in HL7 C-CDA 1.1 and earlier allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted reference element within a nonXMLBody element.

CVE-2014-3862
Published: 2014-09-02
CDA.xsl in HL7 C-CDA 1.1 and earlier allows remote attackers to discover potentially sensitive URLs via a crafted reference element that triggers creation of an IMG element with an arbitrary URL in its SRC attribute, leading to information disclosure in a Referer log.

CVE-2014-5076
Published: 2014-09-02
The La Banque Postale application before 3.2.6 for Android does not prevent the launching of an activity by a component of another application, which allows attackers to obtain sensitive cached banking information via crafted intents, as demonstrated by the drozer framework.

CVE-2014-5136
Published: 2014-09-02
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Innovative Interfaces Sierra Library Services Platform 1.2_3 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified parameters.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
This episode of Dark Reading Radio looks at infosec security from the big enterprise POV with interviews featuring Ron Plesco, Cyber Investigations, Intelligence & Analytics at KPMG; and Chris Inglis & Chris Bell of Securonix.