recommended reading

NSA Uses Google's Tracking Cookies to Find Targets

Mark Lennihan/AP File Photo

The National Security Agency analyzes tracking cookies used by online advertisers in order to find and target surveillance subjects, according to The Washington Post and documents provided by Edward Snowden. Based on internal slide decks, "when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government."

NSA and British GCHQ are using ad tracking cookies to identify unique online users, and are apparently particularly partial to a Google-specific cookie format known as a "PREF" cookie. A PREF cookie—short for 'preferences'—may contain information such as a user's region (useful for weather reports and the like) and other settings such as the number of search results to display, preferred language, and whether to keep SafeSearch filtering on. Additionally, it is unique for each user, in order to serve up personalized ads.

NSA likes the cookies because they allow them to "enable remote exploitation," although what they means exactly is unclear. These types of technical tricks are used not to sift through bulk data for suspicious activity, but to track and engage with specific targets.

Most browsers contain a Do Not Track function that limits third-party cookies when enabled and disables tracking users across websites. According to a website maintained by Stanford and Princeton researchers, of the eight large tech companies pushing for government surveillance reform, only one—Twitter—honors the Do Not Track policy.

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion / Stolen credentials

85M User Accounts Compromised from Video-sharing Site Dailymotion

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.