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Friday, January 06, 2017

Some Geek Greek...Ultrasound Tracking Could Be Used To Deanonymize Tor Users (bleepingcomputer.com)

Ultrasounds emitted by ads or JavaScript code hidden on a page accessed through the Tor Browser can deanonymize Tor users by making nearby phones or computers send identity beacons back to advertisers, data which contains sensitive information that state-sponsored actors can easily obtain via a subpoena. 

This attack model was brought to light towards the end of 2016 by a team of six researchers, who presented their findings at the Black Hat Europe 2016 security conference in November and the 33rd Chaos Communication Congress held last week. 

Their research focuses on the science of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT), a new technology that started being deployed in modern-day advertising platforms around 2014. uXDT relies on advertisers hiding ultrasounds in their ads. 

When the ad plays on a TV or radio, or some ad code runs on a mobile or computer, it emits ultrasounds that get picked up by the microphone of nearby laptops, desktops, tablets or smartphones.

 These second-stage devices, who silently listen in the background, will interpret these ultrasounds, which contain hidden instructions, telling them to ping back to the advertiser's server with details about that device. 

Advertisers use uXDT in order to link different devices to the same person and create better advertising profiles so to deliver better-targeted ads in the future.

 The attack that the research team put together relies on tricking a Tor user into accessing a web page that contains ads that emit ultrasounds or accessing a page that contains hidden JavaScript code that forces the browser to emit the ultrasounds via the HTML5 Audio API.

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