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What is Digital Fingerprinting?

Rinus Reuvekamp

The digital fingerprinting is a concept that incorporates all the records and traces we leave when we use the internet. In most cases, they are beneficial for the user, but in others, they can be really harmful since they are never irrelevant. These records represent information about us that can be used by third parties to earn money or know our preferences and sell their products better. The fingerprint is one of the issues that most concern users as it directly affects their security and privacy.

In what way do we leave fingerprints?

When we browse and visit a website, we are delivering specific information to the owner of the website. First of all our IP, which reveals the geographical location. In addition to the geographical location, we provide information about the browser, operating system of the computer or device, language, sex, age, etc. 

This data usually does not imply an intrusion on our privacy. We are not revealing inadvertently any personal or private data, but statistical that is used to create profiles of buyer or visitor to a site. The webs, in turn, leave a string of digits in our browser that is known as a cookie or cookies. These chains remain in our browser until we choose to delete them and have a very clear practical use.

Every time we access our mail service or social network, the cookie allows us to not have to be typing the user and password every time we want to enter unless we indicate otherwise.

However, cookies can contain many types of data and sometimes can be generated from them, surprisingly complete profiles that contain personal information that goes beyond the statistical data on the computer from which we connect: can include details on purchases, sex, health, and financial information.

Digital Fingerprinting and Big Data

The generation of data that occurs every time we move through the network has ended up generated in what we know as Big Data. The management of this digital fingerprint leads many companies to hire specialized staff to perform an analysis to generate profiles.

This analysis cannot be done based on traditional techniques, but it has been necessary to create new management and process tools. Never lose sight of the fact that if you do not analyze the fingerprint of your clients, someone will do it for you. In the same way that all those analysis actions that you take on the data of your clients must be under the security measures that the EU-GDPR marks.

The Digital Identity

Based on the definition we have given on what the fingerprint is, we can affirm that users have a digital identity. It does not only include the data that we leave on the network as consumers of online content and/or products but also how we want other users to see us. Here social networks come into play and our profile in them.

The concept of digital reputation is closely linked to that of digital identity, although in the case of reputation, we refer to a more specific concept of marketing and in which we will not delve into here.

Threats to Digital Fingerprinting

The accumulation of digital identities of millions of users formed from the trace left in each purchase or visit to a website is a commodity highly valued by hackers. To be able to reach this data for illicit uses has become a very lucrative dark business. In order to protect ourselves, we must know what the threats we are facing are:

1. Identity Theft

There are users who use our photos to create false and unauthorized profiles of other users or companies, especially on social networks. That way, they can get information that they could not otherwise access. This type of threat is more frequent among personal users than among companies.

2. Data Leakage

The leakage of information aims to damage the image and prestige of a company or personality since the information that leaks are usually confidential and/or sensitive.

3. Denial of service (DDOS) attacks

Although we enter the area of cybersecurity, if the servers of our company are used in a cyber-attack of this type, our reputation can be greatly affected.