Kiss Your Anonymity Goodbye

March 8, 2008 – 3:56 PM

A doctoral student at the University of California has devised a means of fingerprinting a computer and tracking that computer across the internet. This fingerprinting defeats all known methods of hiding the identity of a computer. Attempting to use proxy servers, NAT firewalls, routers or any other methods fail to hide the identity of the computer.

The fingerprinting is very simple to understand. Every computer has an internal clock. That clock is inaccurate by a miniscule amount of time. Only an atomic clock is perfectly accurate. This inaccuracy is referred to as “clock skew”. By analyzing the network packets being sent by a computer, the clock skew in the computer’s internal clock can be measured. It is believed that no two computer clocks will have the exact same level of clock skew. Changing the computer’s time will have no effect on this fingerprinting process.

The only way to defeat this fingerprinting is to instruct your computer to not attach a time stamp to every packet it sends over a network or to falsify the timestamps. Doing this can be either simple or very complicated, depending on your experience with computers. I wouldn’t know how to do it myself. I wouldn’t be very surprised if someone comes out with a software tool to do just that.,2005#tracking

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