07:45 GMT +328 July 2017
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    New App Able to Track Whistleblowers' Online Footprints

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    Whistleblowers often jump into the anonymity provided by the black spots of the dark web when leaking secrets. However,a new app has been created that could make their online footprints much harder to hide.

    Computer scientists at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US have created an app that monitors a given computer's hardware which can flag up when a whistleblower site has been visited.

    According to a paper they uploaded outlining their work, the app carefully tracks and analyses patterns and trends in a computer's processor, which allows it to build a picture of what the user typically uses their computer for, and which kinda of sites they tend to visit.

    The app can be deployed to run incognito in the background of someone's desktop or laptop machine. The app is able to track processor usage while combing through the sites, even if the user has been browsing with a Tor browser. The whole time, a piece of AI software is running in the background and is able to form an algorithm from the data that is received through the monitoring of the processor and browsing history. The algorithm is then able to parse the data and present a series of predictions of which sits a user visited.

    The algorithm proved it was able to analyze the parsed data and decide whether a user had visited Amazon or Netflix, with reasonably high accuracy. It's predictions were right 86,3% of the time for Chrome users searching in secret browser mode. It was slightly less accurate with users using Tor browser.

    However, it appears that whistleblowers should not be overly worried about the new app. Mainly this is because the researchers at the Worcester Institute used the Linux system to develop and test the app, which is, when compared with Windows and Mac, a rather unpopular and uncommon operation system. While the chance of a similar piece of software being developed for iOS devices is possible, its yet to be seriously looked into. 

    Moreover, for the spy app to seep into your hardware, you need to download it first. While such scamming apps have wormed their way onto, for example, the app store before, there's no guarantee that this one will. 

    Perhaps the lesson to take away from this research is that privacy is a commodity, and it is fast becoming so even for the most dedicated of whistleblowers. For now, just be careful which apps you download, and if something seems "phishy," don't click on it!

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    Tags:
    hardware, phishing, app, website, scam, spying, snooping, software, whistleblowers, iOS, Chrome, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, United States
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