[Whonix-devel] User Behavior Tracking defenses in VMs

bancfc at openmailbox.org bancfc at openmailbox.org
Mon Mar 14 16:54:59 CET 2016

Intended for qemu-discuss
/cc/ libvir-list, whonix-devel, tor-dev


Hello. I work on WhonixOS an anonymity distro based on Tor. This feature 
request is related to the topics of privacy and anonymity. Its a complex 
topic and probably not in your area of focus but I think it has 
important implications because security and privacy are very much 
related in today's hostile computing environment.

Virtualization is useful in presenting an identical environment and set 
of "hardware" for each user which goes a long way in creating an 
anonymity set of systems. That way a system attacker, advertisers and 
online trackers would not be able to fingerprint a user or their 

The problem: Tracking techniques have become more sophisticated with 
time. They advanced from simple cookies to browser/device fingerprinting 
(which Tor Browser focuses on defeating) to user behavior 
fingerprinting. The latter is about profiling how a user types on a 
keyboard or uses a mouse [2].

Keystroke dynamics is a super creepy way to track users based on how 
long they press keys (dwell time) and the time between key presses (gap 
time). This is extremely accurate at identifying individuals because of 
how unique these measurements are. Advertising networks  (Google, 
Facebook...) that fingeprprint users on both the clearnet and Tor can 
deanonymize users. This technique is already actively used in the wild 

Potential Solutions:

Since input devices are all emulated its a great opportunity to stop 
this profiling technique.

* A security researcher designed a proof of concept plugin for Chrome 
browser that mitigates this. Implementing something like the PoC addon 
in [1] known as KeyBoardPrivacy. Some random delay in milliseconds in a 
50 millisecond range for dwell and gap times for the emulated keyboards 
is enough to skew the values to render this attack useless while not 
affecting performance.

* The changes made to Tor Borwser to make JS timers more coarse grained 
but constant (250ms for keyboard events) were not enough to stop 
keystroke dynamics fingerprinting because a malicious script can evict 
the cache and allow extrapolation of true timing events within 1-5ms 
accuracy .[3][5] Their goal is to instead add jitter to the timers [4]. 
A similar solution proposed in [4] can be implemented in all QEMU-KVM 
timers to mitigate both attacks.

[4] https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/16110
[5] https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/1517
[6] http://scraping.pro/no-captcha-recaptcha-challenge/

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