As you can deduce, the fingerprint is a unique identifier of a person. By comparison, the digital fingerprint is the extraction of sets of unique identifiers that lead to the identification of a person.
The physical address MAC and the public IP address characterizes any network device. The manufacturer assigns the MAC address for each device it produces, and the ISP usually assigns the IP address.
How a digital fingerprint is made?
When you access a web page, cookies may appear while you are browsing the internet. Your internet browser stores cookies; usually in temporary files on your PC. Cookies record portions of data from what you visit in a browsing session. However, these alone are not necessarily an accurate way of identification, but together with other elements such as the IP address can make the identification much more obvious.
Furthermore, cookies are an excellent way to identify users, but they can be easily erased. Also, when you switch to another device, cookies are useless because they are per device.
Also, the fingerprinting extends to all electronic devices that are connected to the Internet. For instance, different protocols and applications can identify and control them. To be more exact, it includes environment air control, air conditioners, smart sockets, smart TVs, and so on. Any device that has an internet connection can be accessed. The model and the unique serial number can be used to identify the user.
Several types of data can form a fingerprint, including the following examples:
- CSS information.
- HTTP header information.
- Clock information. By checking your browser’s local time, any website can know if you are in the same country as your IP address.
- TCP stack variation. TCP/IP stack fingerprinting is the passive gathering of configuration characteristics from a remote device.
- Installed fonts. By checking the unique combination of fonts you have installed on your computer, sneaky webmasters can uniquely identify your device.
- Information about the installed plugins. Similar to installed fonts, the unique combination of installed plugins can help to identify your device.
- Use of internal application programming interfaces (APIs) exposed by the device.
- Use of external APIs of Web services communicated by the user’s device.
Risks to the protection of personal data
Fingerprinting is the act of uniquely identifying a person or device by use of a fingerprinting method. Tracking is the act of monitoring and logging certain actions of unique users or anonymized sets of users across time.
Third-party tracking is not the only data protection risk. The combination of data obtained through the application programming interfaces (APIs) present in the software on client devices also presents the risk of fingerprinting the device. Different software programs, platforms and APIs will each provide access to various information items stored in the device.
API calls can also show installed software or even accurate version numbers. Therefore, access to such sets of information increases the number of bits of information and therefore the risk of recognizing unique individuals through their device. The more bits of information there is about you, the easier it is to uniquely separate you from the crowd.
What can we do?
To protect and avoid these risks, however, we can take a few measures:
- Purchase a licensed operating system for security updates;
- Use an ad blocker
- Purchase a licensed antivirus;
- Use of a proxy server’s services;
- Use a firewall or router that includes firewall settings;
- Blocking applications and browsers when we access different data.
- Using an incognito browser or an anonymous browser.
A trusted proxy server provider can be the optimal choice for you. Always read carefully verified buyer’s reviews and the subscription plans. People who have previously used a service are the most qualified to give advice. Additionally, always keep in mind what are your needs and choose a provider and a subscription plan that fits all your needs. Above all, be safe and keep an eye out for your digital fingerprint.
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