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Web Browser Privacy and Security Part II. Outline  Overview  Browser Privacy and Security Research HCISec Bibliography Trusted Paths for Browsers 

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Presentation on theme: "Web Browser Privacy and Security Part II. Outline  Overview  Browser Privacy and Security Research HCISec Bibliography Trusted Paths for Browsers "— Presentation transcript:

1 Web Browser Privacy and Security Part II

2 Outline  Overview  Browser Privacy and Security Research HCISec Bibliography Trusted Paths for Browsers  Zishuang Ye, Sean Smith, Denise Anthony Informed Consent in the Mozilla Browser: Implementing Value-Sensitive Design  Batya Friedman, Daniel C Howe, Edward Felten Doppelganger: Better Browser Privacy Without the Bother  Umesh Shankar, Chris Karlof  Discussion and Activity

3 Overview  The web browser serves as a doorway to the Internet for much of a typical user’s online activity  Browsers have the potential to impact on the privacy and security of any action they are used to complete  Some of the most interesting areas are where there is no clear cut answer Technology that has functionally beneficial uses but gives up something in return Can (or should) these decisions be automated?

4 Web Browsers and Online Privacy  Common privacy concerns come up when simply browsing the web Sometimes, users are getting something in return for the loss of privacy  Personal information given to websites (creating accounts/completing real world transactions)  Cookies (remember usernames/preferences) Other times, no value is returned to the user for their loss of privacy  Tracking cookies  Web bugs  Traffic logs

5 Cookies  Because cookies can be used beneficially, disallowing their use is not an acceptable solution  People claim to want the browser to seek their consent before giving up information in this manner Asking every time is too intrusive and annoying, and leads to users clicking through without paying attention

6 Problems with Cookie Management  Accept/Reject decision is not clear in all cases  Because the perceived risks are low, very little action can be required on the part of the user or they will simply avoid using the tool  Two proposed solutions later

7 Web Bugs and Traffic Logs  Loading of remote image that doesn’t impact visual layout of page  Set 3 rd party cookie  Remote server can log event of image load even if cookie is rejected  However, there are lots of cases where we want our browsers to load images and display them to us  Can be difficult to tell when this action is beneficial and when it isn’t

8 Web Browsers and Online Security  Confidentiality You should be able to exchange data with the server without an eavesdropper being able to intercept it  Integrity No third-party should be able to modify or corrupt your communications with the server  You must be able to correctly identify the server you are interacting with

9 Web Browsers and Online Security  Browsers provide common tools enabling users to interact with remote servers in a secure fashion Encrypted sessions (SSL) Signed Certificates  However, the browser must then communicate about these tools to the end user

10 Trusted Path for Web Browsing  Trusted Path From the remote web server to the user Malicious websites or third party attackers should not be able to use your browser to trick you Many common indicators needed to establish the identity of the server can be spoofed

11 Certificates  Talked a lot about signed certificates as an important part of creating a Trusted Path to the user  Goals Confidentiality and Integrity Establishes identity of remote server  Does it accomplish these goals? Tuesday’s lecture

12 Web Browser Security  Trusted Paths for Browsers  Evaluation of browser methods for establishing a trusted path to the user Ability to masquerade as a site with a different identity Ability to “spoof” the existence of a SSL connection

13 Misleading website identity in browsers  Malicious sites trying to use a forged identity are often related to phishing attacks Simple impersonation attacks in the URL itself   From a technical standpoint, there is nothing wrong with these addresses, yet they are intended to mislead

14 Misleading website identity in browsers  More elaborate impersonation attacks are also possible using JavaScript Link appears to go to one site, but goes to another instead New window with standard toolbars disabled, replaced with spoofed ones displaying inaccurate information Imposter site with JavaScript created interface elements looks very similar to legitimate site  Again, all technically legitimate JavaScript commands, used with the intention of misleading the user

15 Why does this work  Browsers don’t make enough of a distinction between site content and browser status information  A clear distinction needs to exist  Users need to be able to easily perceive this difference  Status information should never be empty  Status elements should be difficult to impersonate

16 Approaches  No Turnoff Make it impossible to disable elements such as the location and status bars  Overly restrictive of site display  Customized Content Clearly label status material by using customized styles or information that would be difficult to spoof  Requires some effort from user  May not be noticed

17 Approaches – cont  Metadata Titles Push some important status data into the window title bar where it is more difficult to modify  Would users notice?  Still vulnerable to window in window  Metadata Windows Separate dedicated window for metadata  Easy to Ignore  Difficult to correlate with content elements

18 Approaches – cont  Boundaries Use large colored boundaries to indicate “trusted” status information from the browser  Window in window  Compartmented Mode Workstation - Style Approach Uses combination of metadata windows and boundaries

19 Prototype  Separate metadata window always open  Displays color matching the security level of the focus window  Color mismatch of spoofed window will warn users  Synchronized random dynamic borders switch all windows between inset and outset shading styles at once to further make window in window spoofs easier to identify

20 Prototype – cont  All windows labeled  Colored boundaries are easy to recognize  Minimal user work required  Minimal level of intrusiveness, content unaffected  Modified version of Mozilla browser

21 User Study  Security signal was noticeable and easy to learn to understand  Presence of the reference window made it easier to observe the synchronization  Dynamic boundaries much easier to notice than static ones  Displaying security signals without requiring user action is more reliable

22 Value-Sensitive Design  Informed Consent in the Mozilla Browser: Implementing Value-Sensitive Design  Shares work with Informed Consent by Design – Chapter 24  Many sites collecting information about users do not explicitly inform them that they are doing so  Your browser is implicitly giving consent on your behalf when accepting cookies

23 Informed Consent  88% of users expressed that they wanted sites to explicitly get their consent  Elements of Informed Consent Disclosure Comprehension Voluntariness Competence Agreement Minimal Distraction

24  Why is this important? If overwhelmed with queries with low perceived benefits and risks, attention to each will become low After some threshold, users will simply seek to disable the mechanism to avoid the annoyances it presents In either of these cases, it is impossible to maintain the other 5 properties

25 Prototype  Iterative design, rapid prototyping, user evaluations  Enhancements to cookie manager tool  Additional cookie information  Just-in-time interventions for cookie events Difficult to tell which are actually important to a user

26 Prototype – cont  Instead of interrupting current work with decisions, give peripheral notification Users can then identify themselves which events are important and need their attention  Cookie information box displays currently set cookies on side of browser area  Color and formatting in cookie information dialog box make cookies easier to identify 3 rd party cookies in red Long cookie expiration durations bolded Cookie expiration durations for current session in italics

27 User Study  Increased awareness of cookie events  More likely to respond to cookie events  More likely to make cookie management actions

28 Web Browser Privacy  Making decisions about the tradeoff of privacy and functionality Most automated methods make mistakes when compared to actual user preferences Asking the user every time is annoying They will stop paying attention and make mistakes themselves  Who is better equipped to make the decision? The user or the browser

29 Doppelganger  Doppelganger: Better Browser Privacy Without the Bother  More fun with cookies!  When deciding to accept a cookie or not, users would like to compare the privacy cost to the functionality benefit but are ill equipped to do so  Doppelganger aims to assist the user in making these decisions and learn and make simple generalizations of these rules to remove later instances of repeated prompts

30 Goals  Create a cookie policy that Protects privacy Maintains functionality Doesn’t hassle the user  Doppelganger Firefox extension Mirrors session in hidden window Detects differences in sessions

31 Doppelganger  Maintains “forked” session  If there is no detected difference, cookies are assumed to have no benefit and are ignored  If there is a difference, present it to the user, give them information relevant to the cookie and let them decide to accept or reject Now has information necessary to make informed functionality vs. privacy decision

32 Doppelganger  “Fix Me” button for user-initiated repair Attempts to rewind and replay sequence of actions with cookies on Needed incase no difference was detected and cookies were automatically rejected  Learns policies per domain  Configuration modes allow for automatic acceptance of 1 st party session cookies Other modes allow for different trade off of privacy and intrusiveness

33 Evaluation  Simulated User Willing to give up privacy at some sites  Yahoo!, Netflix, GMail Not willing to give up privacy at sites which they had no relationship  CNN, PCMagazine, etc  5 Conditions All cookies enabled Reject 3 rd party cookies Reject 3 rd party cookies + Reject persistent cookies Ask user for every cookie Doppelganger

34 Measurements  Number of sites whose cookies were accepted Grouped by persistence and context Doesn’t directly measure privacy loss  Inconveniences suffered by user Dialog boxes and prompts Lost functionality  Looking for low values both times  Set of common tasks was repeated three times

35 Results  Doppelganger had the best fit for accepted cookies vs. lost functionality More prompts than the conditions that never prompt Fewer prompts than the condition that always prompts After the 2 nd visit to any given site, no further prompts were required for any of the test scripts After navigating prompts, there was no lost functionality Required use of “Fix Me” button once upon returning to a site that needed a persistent cookie for functionality

36 Alternatives  Most browsers allow users only very coarse-grained control Allowing or blocking all cookies by category  Session, 3 rd party, All  Allowing too many has negative privacy implications  Blocking too many has negative functionality implications  There are ways around the 3 rd party blocks Redirect links IFrames

37 Alternatives – cont  Many existing extensions and addons to enhance cookie management Cookie Button Cookie Toggle Permit Cookies Add N Edit Cookies Cookie Culler View Cookies  But they still focus on the low level task of cookie management

38 Alternatives – cont  Acumen Social Approaches to End-User Privacy Management – Chapter 25 Social Recommendations Simple threshold rules Makes some steps in the right direction to move action away from low level tasks

39 Firefox Extensions 164 Extensions in the Security and Privacy Section at

40 Site Identity


42 Privacy


44 Why Extensions?  Why aren’t these built into the default behavior of browsers? Chances are, users won’t take the proactive action required of going out to acquire these tools Highest risk users likely not aware of their existence  They all make tradeoffs User effort Distractions Blocking use of often-abused functionality  But potentially useful functionality

45 Summary  Interesting questions arise with technology that trades off privacy for functionality What is the best way to give users a good level of control over this  The less a tool requires of the user, the more effective it is Can often make better decisions than the user User will avoid repetitive decision making tasks

46 Discussion  What do you think?  Firefox and the Worry-free Web – Chapter 28 Do it for them  When there are functionality tradeoffs, it is often not clear what to do

47 Activity  Group discussion What do you think is the right amount of interaction for cookie management? Does it work for everyone?  Would you use it yourself?  Would a novice computer user be able to use it?

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