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According to http://panopticlick.eff.org/ your browser divulges enough information about your PC to single you out of a crowd of one or two million people. The installed fonts list and the plug-ins list are especially revealing. My installed fonts list alone uniquely identifies me.

Does anyone know of a utility for Windows that can put the PC into "plain vanilla installed fonts" mode -- emulating the fonts list that is on the machine after a fresh install of the O/S? This would make you appear like "one of the herd" -- quasi-anonymity. There would be thousands of workstations just like yours.

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What browser are you using? –  Dennis Mar 26 '13 at 12:43
That question deals with two specific browsers. My questions is whether it can be done at the O/S level? "... a utility for Windows..." I can edit the title to make that clearer. The questions are not duplicates. Kindly unflag it as a duplicate, Messrs. @Dennis, Luke, Gareth, oKtosiTe, and Tog. –  mrblint Mar 29 '13 at 14:47
@Dennis: all (FF, Chrome, IE9, IE10, Safari/Win, Opera). I vary them, or use whichever seems to work best. There's huge variation in peformance/compatibility as you know. –  mrblint Mar 29 '13 at 14:54
At OS level, the best bet is probably a virtual machine. –  Dennis Mar 29 '13 at 16:04
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marked as duplicate by Dennis, Canadian Luke, 8088, oKtosiTe, Tog Mar 27 '13 at 9:03

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1 Answer

Device fingerprinting can be very difficult to defend against. As you note, fonts and plug-ins can leak a lot of system entropy. The best defense against that is to disable Flash and Java, and use a common set of plugins. JavaScript can be used to obtain a lot of information about your browser and your computing environment. Your User Agent and any number of system configuration (rare or multiple screen configs, for example) can also leak a lot of entropy.

If fonts are your main concern, it may be best to browse using a cleanly-installed system or Virtual Machine.

Other potential (partial) solutions:

  1. Tor [https://www.torproject.org/] - when used carefully, can give you a high degree of anonymity.

  2. Disable Flash and Java to minimize font leakage.

  3. Control JavaScript carefully, for example using the NoScript add-on [http://noscript.net/]. Be aware that this is quite a high-maintenance process.

  4. Use Firefox extensions such as FireGloves [http://fingerprint.pet-portal.eu/?menu=6] to alter the User Agent your browser presents.

And don't forget about all of the other basics such as IP address (use Tor, VPN, SSH tunnel, or other proxy), cookies and other saved state (clean your browser of these frequently), and the sheer numbers of trackers that follow you as you browse (consider strong tracker blocking via hosts file, browser plugins, DNS, and/or proxy).

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Another option, though it requires separate hardware, is to browse from a device that has a common and static fingerprint, such as a recent-model iOS device. The same precautions about IP address, persistent storage (cookies), etc. still apply. –  pseudon Mar 26 '13 at 17:36
I don't understand how #4 could help. –  martineau Mar 26 '13 at 19:56
If your browser has a very unique User Agent (e.g., IE UAs can be notoriously specific), you can easily change it to a more common UA. Doesn't help with fonts per se, but is one of many ways to reduce entropy in your fingerprint. –  pseudon Mar 28 '13 at 1:30
Thanks, @pseudon. How much is divulged tends to vary by browser/usage. I used FF for a long time as my main browser, and there the PlugIns alone identify me as one in nearly 3 million. On other browsers I use less, the installed fonts list is the most revealing. –  mrblint Mar 29 '13 at 14:56
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