SnailLoad Exploit Revealed: Internet Speed Fluctuations Used to Track Users

While using the internet, many users tend to leave their traces behind without even realizing it.

So many features like firewalls, VPN connections, and privacy seen on browsers are said to be in place to confirm a certain level of data protection. But that might not always be the case as a new security loophole is enabling the bypassing of all protective endeavors.

The discovery was published by experts at the IAIK University, where users’ online behavior could easily be tracked by simple monitoring protocols in place that can detect fluctuations in speed of internet connectivity.

No malicious codes are needed for exploitation of the vulnerability that is dubbed SnailLoad. Here, the data traffic isn’t intercepted and any kind of end device and internet links are impacted.

As per the study published so far, attackers only need direct links with victims on a single occasion at the start. This is where victims install harmless files of small size from the server of the attacker without realizing it. For instance, they might be paying the website a visit or watching some kind of marketing video.

These files don’t entail any type of malicious code and therefore can’t be comprehended by the security systems inside the software. Such file transfers tend to be quite slow and give rise to attackers stealing confidential data. These details are then used to rebuild the online activity belonging to the victim.

When access is attained to the website by the victim or if they watche some kind of video online, the latency of the web connectivity fluctuates in a certain manner that depends on the specific content in use.

Remember, all online material has unique fingerprints so every piece of data can serve as human fingerprints that are unique in all aspects.

All researchers collect the fingerprints of a certain figure belonging to videos or famous websites beforehand to be enrolled in the trial process. So when the authors cumulated the results, they were able to decipher this via latency changes that corresponded to these.

Such attacks may work in another manner where they measure latency patterns during online activity and look for content featuring similar fingerprint designs.

Experts claim that having a slower internet connection does not make things easier for these individuals. Anyone choosing to spy on the test that was seeing online video had a 98% success rate.

Now the bigger question on everyone's minds is how to get rid of this security loophole. It’s a major security gap and its presence always means danger.

The only option here appears to be related to providers slowing down customers’ internet connectivity in a randomized manner. But as expected, this could only give rise to serious delays for crucial apps like video conferences, online games, and live streams.

Image: DIW-Aigen

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