Threat model

JShelter focuses on threats that affect the mainstream population. Our adversary creates attacks/derives information in a way that works in mainstream browsers. The attacker focuses on these browsers and attacks that are light on performance. For example, the adversary is interested in identifying the user for targeted advertisement. So they need to identify the user quickly to display an advertisement. It does not make sense for such an attacker to deploy scripts that take minutes to compute a fingerprint.

Our adversary might try to apply low-performance counterattacks. For example, previous literature identified extensions that modify calls in a wrong position in the JavaScript prototype chain. It is straightforward for an adversary to use instead of so we apply code that modifies the original method,, in the example. Another example is an adversary running canvas fingerprinting several times. If the adversary receives different results, they can compute an average value (or a minimal or maximal value) and use this information to derive the correct fingerprint. As these modifications to fingerprinting are not performance-heavy, we consider them in the threat model.

We do not have the resources to create a bullet-proof solution that eliminates all side channels. For example, we expect that an adversary will be able to detect that something strange is happening in the browser. For example, an adversary might fill a canvas with content controlled by the adversary and detect modifications after reading back the content. Or, the adversary might time the length of each/some operation(s). We modify the time readings, and the countermeasures take some time. Hence, we expect that an adversary will be able to detect that the user has modified the JavaScript environment with a patch or an extension. Our goal is to create a bigger anonymity set into which the user belongs. Hence, we try to eliminate the possibility of an attacker identifying the user uniquely. Still, we accept that the attacker can detect a JShelter user in the worst case. To do so reliably, the attacker should need to keep track of the code base changes.

Nevertheless, we want to avoid allowing the attacker to identify JShelter users easily. We are not aware of any isolated side-effect that reveals JShelter. For example, some similar webextensions do not modify Function.prototype.toString. A page script could detect such a webextension as each webextension modifying the same API call by the same technique will likely use a different code. Our goal is to offer protection indistinguishable from another privacy-improving tool for each modified API. Nevertheless, a focused observer will very likely be always able to learn that a user is using JShelter if they aggregate the observable inconsistencies of all APIs produced by JShelter. We are aware and do not hide that users of JShelter are vulnerable to focused attacks.

JShelter's goal is to make targeted attacks harder. Still, we do not believe that we are in a position to prevent them completely. We suggest using Tor Browser or a similar privacy-enhancing tool for users concerned with targeted attacks.

It is well-known that some extensions modify the environment of the browser or the web page. For example, password managers add buttons to fill in passwords automatically. Page tweakers add additional buttons to web pages to simplify common tasks or add information likely wanted by a user. JShelter expects such users and tries to help such users from being identifiable. For example, a dumb fingerprinter can combine all fingerprintable data to create a single number. Such a fingerprinter would unintentionally create a unique fingerprint of the users with a unique set of extensions. Such a dumb fingerprinter would not link different visits of the user with Jshelter. JShelter should confuse a more advanced fingerprinter if they identify single or multiple users.

We also want to provide an option that will limit the information that is readable from the computer, even if such behaviour generally results in better fingerprintability. For example, a user might want to disable canvas operations for pages that should not use canvas (from the user's standpoint). As the webpage is in a better position to deploy countermeasures for JShelter anti-fingerprinting techniques, the user might want the page to always read an empty, white, or random canvas. That would limit the information available for the web page at the cost of giving the page an easy way to determine that some countermeasures are in place. Our aim is to explain the consequences of taking such an option but letting the user decide for themselves.

Previous literature identified that it is easy for an adversary to detect inconsistencies in API calls. For example, a fingerprinter can learn the operating system from HTTP headers, navigator.oscpu, installed fonts, results of mathematical operations, and other techniques. We do not want to replace such techniques as we do not have the resources to create a consistent environment.

Besides fingerprinting, JShelter also focuses on other threats appearing on the web. For example, JShelter prevents web pages from turning the browser into a proxy to the local network. The user should be able to decouple anti-fingerprinting countermeasures and other countermeasures.