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Porn Site Users Exposed to History Hijacking Bug

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A research by computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego has revealed that pornographic Websites can expose users to a browser bug that reveals all their online history. The bug, which hijacks the history files on remote computers, are often used by certain Websites to either target advertisements or check if visitors are using rival Websites. It functions by taking advantage of a vulnerability in the way many browsers handle links visited, sometimes changing the colour of text to reflect earlier visits.

Furthermore, the study found that of the 50,000 sites surveyed, 485 were using this method which “interrogates a visitors browser to see what it does to a given list of Websites”. Web links displayed in a different colour were adjudged to be those  visited by the user. Although other sites used this technique, it was quite popular amongst adult Websites, with YouPorn coming first on the list.

However, the research also revealed that while some sites such as YouTube used Web scripts to track the trail of a user’s mouse pointer across Web pages, some modern browsers such as Safari, Chrome and more recently Mozilla Firefox, have closed the history hijacking loophole. Overall, the research showed that “popular Web 2.0 applications like mashups, aggregators, and sophisticated ad targeting are rife with different kinds of privacy-violating flows”, and calls for better defences against history tracking.

Talking Point

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