Online porn is still amongst the most top uses for the internet and while many do so trying to keep it secret, a Californian law suit currently before the courts might see more admitting to their vice.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a class action has been filed in the U.S. District Court in California claiming visitors to a pornographic website were abused by Javascript used within the site that stole information about their browsing history. Filed by two Californian men against Midstream Media – a Netherland Antilles based company that runs a number of x-rated sites -  the claim is a class action meaning others may join in the claim if they also have been affected.

Ironically, recent research has revealed that this practice of ‘history sniffing’ is a relatively unknown security risk but one on the rise. Histories could potentially be sold giving a unique insight into personal internet use. The claim is that Mainstream Media stole these histories and sold them to interested parties.

A recent paper from the University of California which would appear to have prompted this action suggests  history sniffing could be used to find phishing targets – especially by identifying any recently visited banking sites and then sending out spoof emails from appearing to be from the same bank in an attempt to steal login details.

History sniffing could also become of great use to advertising organisations looking to profile visitors to their own sites and tailor content to them.

The research paper uses the domain as an example of how incisive history browsing could be and the potential it offers to building up a profile on innocent visitors to unobtrusive looking sites.

The advice on protecting your browser history appears to be ensure you use up to date versions of your browser and regularly clear your history too. Given the potential monetary value of a person’s online antics, and the likely high-profile of this lawsuit, we would expect many more to look into exploiting browser history until it is declared illegal.

Were you aware of the risk of history browsing? Do you think you may have been a victim?

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