skip to main content

Title: Robust Website Fingerprinting Through the Cache Occupancy Channel
Website fingerprinting attacks, which use statistical analysis on network traffic to compromise user privacy, have been shown to be effective even if the traffic is sent over anonymity-preserving networks such as Tor. The classical attack model used to evaluate website fingerprinting attacks assumes an on-path adversary, who can observe all traffic traveling between the user’s computer and the secure network. In this work we investigate these attacks under a different attack model, in which the adversary is capable of sending a small amount of malicious JavaScript code to the target user’s computer. The malicious code mounts a cache side-channel attack, which exploits the effects of contention on the CPU’s cache, to identify other websites being browsed. The effectiveness of this attack scenario has never been systematically analyzed, especially in the open-world model which assumes that the user is visiting a mix of both sensitive and non-sensitive sites. We show that cache website fingerprinting attacks in JavaScript are highly feasible. Specifically, we use machine learning techniques to classify traces of cache activity. Unlike prior works, which try to identify cache conflicts, our work measures the overall occupancy of the last-level cache. We show that our approach achieves high classification accuracy in both the open-world and the closed-world models. We more » further show that our attack is more resistant than network-based fingerprinting to the effects of response caching, and that our techniques are resilient both to network-based defenses and to side-channel countermeasures introduced to modern browsers as a response to the Spectre attack. To protect against cache-based website fingerprinting, new defense mechanisms must be introduced to privacy-sensitive browsers and websites. We investigate one such mechanism, and show that generating artificial cache activity reduces the effectiveness of the attack and completely eliminates it when used in the Tor Browser « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
USENIX Security Symposium
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Most privacy-conscious users utilize HTTPS and an anonymity network such as Tor to mask source and destination IP addresses. It has been shown that encrypted and anonymized network traffic traces can still leak information through a type of attack called a website fingerprinting (WF) attack. The adversary records the network traffic and is only able to observe the number of incoming and outgoing messages, the size of each message, and the time difference between messages. In previous work, the effectiveness of website fingerprinting has been shown to have an accuracy of over 90% when using Tor as the anonymity network. Thus, an Internet Service Provider can successfully identify the websites its users are visiting. One main concern about website fingerprinting is its practicality. The common assumption in most previous work is that a victim is visiting one website at a time and has access to the complete network trace of that website. However, this is not realistic. We propose two new algorithms to deal with situations when the victim visits one website after another (continuous visits) and visits another website in the middle of visiting one website (overlapping visits). We show that our algorithm gives an accuracy of 80% (comparedmore »to 63% in a previous work [24]) in finding the split point which is the start point for the second website in a trace. Using our proposed “splitting” algorithm, websites can be predicted with an accuracy of 70%. When two website visits are overlapping, the website fingerprinting accuracy falls dramatically. Using our proposed “sectioning” algorithm, the accuracy for predicting the website in overlapping visits improves from 22.80% to 70%. When part of the network trace is missing (either the beginning or the end), the accuracy when using our sectioning algorithm increases from 20% to over 60%.« less
  2. Website Fingerprinting (WF) attacks pose a serious threat to users' online privacy, including for users of the Tor anonymity system. By exploiting recent advances in deep learning, WF attacks like Deep Fingerprinting (DF) have reached up to 98% accuracy. The DF attack, however, requires large amounts of training data that needs to be updated regularly, making it less practical for the weaker attacker model typically assumed in WF. Moreover, research on WF attacks has been criticized for not demonstrating attack effectiveness under more realistic and more challenging scenarios. Most research on WF attacks assumes that the testing and training data have similar distributions and are collected from the same type of network at about the same time. In this paper, we examine how an attacker could leverage N-shot learning---a machine learning technique requiring just a few training samples to identify a given class---to reduce the effort of gathering and training with a large WF dataset as well as mitigate the adverse effects of dealing with different network conditions. In particular, we propose a new WF attack called Triplet Fingerprinting (TF) that uses triplet networks for N-shot learning. We evaluate this attack in challenging settings such as where the training andmore »testing data are collected multiple years apart on different networks, and we find that the TF attack remains effective in such settings with 85% accuracy or better. We also show that the TF attack is also effective in the open world and outperforms traditional transfer learning. On top of that, the attack requires only five examples to recognize a website, making it dangerous in a wide variety of scenarios where gathering and training on a complete dataset would be impractical.« less
  3. Over 8 million users rely on the Tor network each day to protect their anonymity online. Unfortunately, Tor has been shown to be vulnerable to the website fingerprinting attack, which allows an attacker to deduce the website a user is visiting based on patterns in their traffic. The state-of-the-art attacks leverage deep learning to achieve high classification accuracy using raw packet information. Work thus far, however, has examined only one type of media delivered over the Tor network: web pages, and mostly just home pages of sites. In this work, we instead investigate the fingerprintability of video content served over Tor. We collected a large new dataset of network traces for 50 YouTube videos of similar length. Our preliminary experiments utilizing a convolutional neural network model proposed in prior works has yielded promising classification results, achieving up to 55% accuracy. This shows the potential to unmask the individual videos that users are viewing over Tor, creating further privacy challenges to consider when defending against website fingerprinting attacks.
  4. Tor provides low-latency anonymous and uncensored network access against a local or network adversary. Due to the design choice to minimize traffic overhead (and increase the pool of potential users) Tor allows some information about the client's connections to leak. Attacks using (features extracted from) this information to infer the website a user visits are called Website Fingerprinting (WF) attacks. We develop a methodology and tools to measure the amount of leaked information about a website. We apply this tool to a comprehensive set of features extracted from a large set of websites and WF defense mechanisms, allowing us to make more fine-grained observations about WF attacks and defenses.
  5. Abstract The popularity of Tor has made it an attractive target for a variety of deanonymization and fingerprinting attacks. Location-based path selection algorithms have been proposed as a countermeasure to defend against such attacks. However, adversaries can exploit the location-awareness of these algorithms by strategically placing relays in locations that increase their chances of being selected as a client’s guard. Being chosen as a guard facilitates website fingerprinting and traffic correlation attacks over extended time periods. In this work, we rigorously define and analyze the guard placement attack . We present novel guard placement attacks and show that three state-of-the-art path selection algorithms—Counter-RAPTOR, DeNASA, and LASTor—are vulnerable to these attacks, overcoming defenses considered by all three systems. For instance, in one attack, we show that an adversary contributing only 0.216% of Tor’s total bandwidth can attain an average selection probability of 18.22%, 84× higher than what it would be under Tor currently. Our findings indicate that existing location-based path selection algorithms allow guards to achieve disproportionately high selection probabilities relative to the cost required to run the guard. Finally, we propose and evaluate a generic defense mechanism that provably defends any path selection algorithm against guard placement attacks. We runmore »our defense mechanism on each of the three path selection algorithms, and find that our mechanism significantly enhances the security of these algorithms against guard placement attacks with only minimal impact to the goals or performance of the original algorithms.« less