Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Analysis of Private Browsing Modes in Modern Browsers

The four major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox,Chrome and Safari) recently added private browsing modes to their user interfaces. Loosely speaking, these modes have two goals. First and foremost, sites visited while browsing in private mode should leave no trace on the user’s computer. A family member who examines the browser’s history should find no evidence of sites visited in private mode. More precisely, a local attacker who takes control of the machine at time T should learn no information about private browsing actions prior to time T. Second, users may want to hide their identity from web sites they visit by, for example, making it difficult for web sites to link the user’s activities in private mode to the user’s activities in public mode. We refer to this as privacy from a web attacker.While all major browsers support private browsing, there is a great deal of inconsistency in the type of privacy provided by the different browsers. Firefox and Chrome, for example, attempt to protect against a local attacker and take some steps to protect against a web attacker,while Safari only protects against a local attacker

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