A comparative forensic analysis of privacy enhanced web browsers

Ryan M Gabet, Purdue University

Abstract

Growing concerns regarding Internet privacy has led to the development of enhanced privacy web browsers. The intent of these web browsers is to provide better privacy for users who share a computer by not storing information about what websites are being visited as well as protecting user data from websites that employ tracking tools such as Google for advertisement purposes. As with most tools, users have found an alternative purpose for enhanced privacy browsers, some illegal in nature. This research conducted a digital forensic examination of three enhanced privacy web browsers and three commonly used web browsers in private browsing mode to identify if these browsers produced residual browsers artifacts and if so, if those artifacts provided content about the browsing session. The examination process, designed to simulate common practice of law enforcement digital forensic investigations, found that when comparing browser type by browser and tool combination, out of a possible 60 artifacts, the common web browsers produced 26 artifacts while the enhanced privacy browsers produced 25 for a difference of 2\%. The tool set used also had an impact in this study, with FTK finding a total of 28 artifacts while Autopsy found 23, for a difference of 8\%. The conclusion of this research found that although there was a difference in the number of artifacts produced by the two groups of browsers, the difference was not significant to support the claim that one group of browsers produced fewer browsers than the other. As this study has implications for privacy minded citizens as well as law enforcement and digital forensic practitioners concerned with browser forensics, this study identified a need for future research with respect to internet browser privacy, including expanding this research to include more browsers and tools.^

Degree

M.S.

Advisors

Kathryn C. Seigfried-Spellar, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Information technology

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