Exploring Uncharted Waters of Website Fingerprinting

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION FORENSICS AND SECURITY(2024)

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Abstract
Amidst the rapid technological advancements of today, privacy and anonymity are facing increasing threats. Tor, one of the most widely used anonymity networks, enables users to browse the Internet without their activities being tracked. Extensive research has been conducted on both attacking and defending the anonymity of Tor users. Website Fingerprinting (WF) is one of the popular de-anonymisation techniques employed against Tor users. This paper presents two novel WF techniques based on Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) to explore two relatively understudied avenues of WF: the fingerprintability of Decentralised Applications (DApps) and the impact of reload traffic on WF. Due to the lack of publicly available datasets for DApp traffic and reload traffic suitable for WF, we collected five new datasets for our experiments. Our findings reveal that GNN-based techniques surpass the performance of state-of-the-art WF techniques when reload traffic is used. Meanwhile, certain high-performing state-of-the-art techniques exhibit a significant reduction in accuracy, more than 40%, when reload traffic is used instead of homepage traffic. Additionally, we identify that DApps are less susceptible to fingerprinting than conventional websites, leading to a 25% decrease in accuracy in some state-of-the-art WF techniques. While confirming prior research findings that GNN-based techniques can outperform existing techniques when accessing DApps via Chrome, we further demonstrate that using Tor to access DApps makes them even more difficult to fingerprint. Finally, we expect our datasets, four of which lack publicly available alternatives, will prove invaluable for future research.
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Key words
Fingerprint recognition,Decentralized applications,Browsers,Support vector machines,Social networking (online),Monitoring,Heuristic algorithms,Website fingerprinting,traffic analysis,Tor,anonymity,de-anonymization attacks,Graph Neural Networks (GNNs),decentralized applications,communication system traffic,overlay networks,dark web,machine learning algorithms,web services,fingerprint recognition
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