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
FTC Opens Probe into Equifax Data Breach
Jai Vijayan, Freelance writer,  9/14/2017
Equifax CIO, CSO Step Down
Dark Reading Staff 9/15/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Jan, check this out! I found an unhackable PC.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.