What is device fingerprinting? Working Principle | Mystery of Fingerprint Technology

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What is device fingerprinting? This is a very common question. If you know a little about website tracking, you know what I mean. So, without any further delay, let us learn it in detail. How to prevent device fingerprinting? How does device fingerprinting work? These are some of the other questions that might pop up in your head. Today, I will answer all these.

“This website uses cookies to enable a smooth experience, click ok to continue” – well where have you heard this before? Yes, you guessed it right, this is a very common thing on websites these days. This is a technique of collecting user information. These cookies help in detecting specific users online. But the only reliable way to detect users on the Internet is not just browser cookies. Leading tech companies use another technology. It is more reliable than browser cookies. It is familiar with the name device fingerprinting. Its work is to collect user data or detect fraudulent activity. 

What is device fingerprinting- Device Fingerprinting
Device Fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting is very effective in preventing online fraud. It helps in tracking the user accurately. Only the leading tech companies, the e-commerce industry, and ad networks use this technology. Other small companies do not use this technology. This is a very high-level technology.

So, we can say the tech company implementing this technology is exactly as advanced as the technology. As a result, only technologically advanced companies use this. Again, failure of implementation of this complex technology will cause more trouble for both the user and the company.

What is device fingerprinting? How does device fingerprinting work? How to prevent device fingerprinting? At the end of this article, you understand all these thoroughly.

What is Device Fingerprinting?

Modern browsers are very smart. They tend to adjust to the best possible way to provide a smooth experience with web surfing. The websites in the process utilize this feature. To provide a better viewing experience they collect a lot of user information. They collect a lot more information than IP addresses. In addition, there are cookies also. Just by visiting the website, the website gets to know a lot of information. They can know about you or your device, and even things you never thought were possible. Things they can track:

  1. Public IP address
  2. ISP name
  3. Device name
  4. Operating system
  5. Browser history
  6. Device type
  7. Your estimated close location
What is device fingerprinting- Cyber Fraud
Cyber Fraud

It creates a unique identification document for your device, which we can say is a fingerprint for that device. Don’t worry, only the name sounds troublesome. Device fingerprinting is not a very complex technology. Let’s compare it with a crime scene. It is similar to the process in which a detective collects the fingerprints left by an accused at a crime scene.

In the case of online fraud, such fingerprints are device fingerprints. After performing a fraudulent activity online, it is detected using the device’s fingerprint. What is device fingerprinting? This might have answered your question. Now you might be craving to know, how does device fingerprinting work? How to prevent device fingerprinting? First, let us learn how device fingerprinting works.

How does device fingerprinting work?

Device Fingerprinting
Device Fingerprinting

What is device fingerprinting? – you know this right? So there might be some other questions in your mind right now. Such as How does device fingerprinting work? How to prevent device fingerprinting? Let us know the working procedure of device fingerprinting first.

If you know what device fingerprinting is, then you must already have an idea of ​​how device fingerprint works. A website takes the browser fingerprint of the user. Similar things take place for an app. An app can also send some information about your device to the server. Such as,

  • Device’s IMEI number
  • Time zone
  • GPS info
  • IP address and 
  • MAC address. 

It is possible to create a unique fingerprint of the device. As a result, the website knows, it is you if you visit it for the second time. 

Why is fingerprinting of device the most reliable technique for detecting online fraud?

In case of online fraud activity, you have to be careful about cookies, browser sessions, IP addresses. Because, in this case, it is not impossible to cheat, but it will be quite difficult. Suppose there is a usage of a device to visit a website. Some fraudulent activity took place there using that device.

As you know, the website already has your device fingerprint in its database. Then if you visit that website for the second time, there will be no problem to detect the website that it is you.

Moreover, the website already knows your nearest location. Most importantly it has your IP address. So it is very much possible to catch you using your device fingerprint.  Again, you can change a lot of things on your device if you want. But you never know exactly what information is in the database of the website about your device fingerprint. So it will not be easy for you to change the fingerprint of your device.

Examples of Fingerprinting of Devices

Hopefully, you got a good idea of ​​how the device fingerprint works. But if you still have some confusion, then let’s learn through examples.

Google AdSense

What is device fingerprinting- AdSense Analytics
AdSense Analytics

Google AdSense is an ad-providing service on our website. The employees of Google AdSense know that Google has some strict rules regarding ad clicks. If visitors click invalid ads on your website, you will no longer be able to work with Google AdSense. 

But how does Google know which ad click was intentional or invalid? This is when device fingerprinting steps in. Google knows it all. It doesn’t matter how hard a user tries to hide. Google detects the device through its fingerprint to see the number of times there has been a click on an ad.

E-Commerce 

Now, look at another use case. Sometimes, you can see an ad for an e-commerce website like Amazon on Facebook. You can click on the ad and visit the page of that product on the Amazon website. In the end, you did not buy the product.

But the next day you went to Amazon directly and there you bought the product. Here, the ad did its job. It has shown you that the product is available at the Amazon through Facebook. As a result, even if you did not buy the product through the ad, it is still a success. So the credit here belongs to Facebook.

Now, how will Facebook claim the amount of money? In this case, it was supposed to get the amount from Amazon for this purchase. This is where device fingerprinting works again. Facebook has the fingerprint of your device, Facebook can easily use it to prove that  Facebook is responsible for this purchase.

It shows all the information about how you saw the ad. Then by clicking on the ad you got to know about the product through Facebook yesterday. So in the end, you bought the same product the next day. Because, most likely Facebook and Amazon, both have your device’s fingerprints.

Entertainment

Netflix offers a free trial subscription for 1 month. This offer is valid for a single device only. How can Netflix differentiate between devices? Here also we can see the use of fingerprinting of devices. 

How to prevent Device Fingerprinting?

What is device fingerprinting? How does device fingerprinting work? By this far you have a clear concept about these questions. Now, How to prevent device fingerprinting? – you may be wondering about this. How to prevent device fingerprinting so that no one can collect any more information on your device? Honestly, there is no way to stop device fingerprinting.

If you try, you can limit the amount of data they can collect. But to a certain extent. For this, you have to perform some functions,

  • Make some changes to your browser settings
  • Make some changes to your device settings 
  • Use Tor Browser and Tor Network to fake your own and your device’s identity
Deep Web
Deep Web

You can do these to ensure that the websites you visit and the apps you install receive very little data about you. But you can never reduce the amount of data you collect to zero.

Tor Browser is not a reliable solution. Because the Tor network itself is not an ideal solution for privacy.

Some Functions of Fingerprinting of Devices:

  1. To show targeted ads to users on the Internet the use of browser cookies takes place. 
  2. Furthermore, it remembers future users who logged in to the website. 
  3. Detect and prevent any invalid activity or fraudulent activity.

That’s why ad network companies use this technology the most.

What is device fingerprinting? How does device fingerprinting work? How to prevent device fingerprinting? I hope I was able to answer these questions. If you have any more questions, do feel free to use the comment section. if this article helped you, then share it with your friends.

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