Towards Lightweight Secure User-Transparent And Privacy-Preserving Web Metering

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Privacy is an issue today as more people are actively connecting and participating in the Internet. Problems arise when such concerning issue is coupled with security requirements of online applications. The web metering problem is the problem of counting the number of visits done by users to a webserver, additionally capturing data about these visits. There are trade-o s between designing secure web metering solutions and preserving users' privacy. There is also a dilemma between privacy preserving solutions versus accuracy of results. The problem becomes more difficult when the main interacting party, the user, is not inherently interested to participate and operations need to be carried out transparently.
This thesis addresses the web metering problem in a hostile environment and proposes different web metering solutions. The web metering solutions operate in an environment where webservers or attackers are capable of invading users' privacy or modifying the web metering result. Threats in such environment are identified, using a well established threat model with certain assumptions, which are then used to derive privacy, security and functional requirements. Those requirements are used to show shortcomings in previous web metering schemes, which are then addressed by our proposed solutions. The central theme of this thesis is user's privacy by user-transparent solutions.
Preserving users' privacy and designing secure web metering solutions that operate transparently to the user are two main goals of this research. Achieving the two goals can conflict with other requirements and such exploration was missed by former solutions in the literature. Privacy issues in this problem are the result of the dilemma of convincing interested parties of web metering results with sufficient details and non-repudiation evidence that can still preserve users' privacy. Relevant privacy guidelines are used to discuss and analyse privacy concerns in the context of the problem and consequently privacy-preserving solutions are proposed. Also, improving the usability through \securely" redesigning already used solutions will help into wider acceptance and universal deployment of the new solutions. Consequently, secure and privacy-preserving web metering solutions are proposed that operate transparently to the visitor.
This thesis describes existing web metering solutions and analyses them with respect to different requirements and desiderata. It also describes and analyses new solutions which use existing security and authentication protocols, hardware devices and analytic codes. The proposed solutions provide a reasonable trade-o among privacy, security, accuracy and transparency. The first proposed solution, transparently to the user, reuses Identity Management Systems and hash functions for web metering purposes. The second hardware-based solution securely and transparently uses hardware devices and existing protocols in a privacy-preserving manner. The third proposed solution transparently collects different "unique" users' data and analyses fingerprints using privacy-preserving codes.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSteven Barker (Supervisor), Maribel Fernandez (Supervisor) & Laurence Tratt (Supervisor)

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