WWW2015 – at the forefront of Internet security and privacy research

From May 18 to 22th of May I attended the 25th international conference on the World Wide Web (WWW15) in Florence. Among other research topics, WWW regularly features a number of research tracks focused on security and privacy.

My personal highlights where two research papers, which are closely related to the problem we attempt to solve with the upribox: the user tracking of third parties. Nick Nikiforakis presented PriVaricator, a method to deceive web fingerprinting. The work by Nikiforkakis et al. relies on a modified web browser which fakes answers to common fingerprinting queries such as the number of installed fonts and plugins. Although, the method can not be easily ported to a network-based protection tool such as the upribox, the paper itself is very well written and provides a good overview on web fingerprinting. The second paper, by Englehardt et al., quantified the threat of powerful adversaries to uniquely identify web users based on passively monitoring exchanged third-party cookies. They found that adversaries can reconstruct over 60% of a typical user’s browsing history. This findings are very important as the undermine the potential misuse of third-party tracking by governmental organizations (also see the previous blog post on this topic). In addition to their sound analysis of this privacy issue, the Princeton group also released OpenWPM, an open web privacy measurement platform, to help other researchers to faster bootstrap similar studies. Finally, the two founders of Google were awarded the first WWW Test-of-Time award, for the Google search engine which they first presented at the WWW conference in 1998.