Your ISP May Be Messing With Your Internet Activity

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About one percent of the Web pages being delivered on the Internet are being changed in transit, sometimes in a harmful way, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

In a paper, the researchers document some troubling practices. In July and August they tested data sent to about 50,000 computers and discovered that a small number of ISPs were injecting ads into Web pages on their networks. They also found that some Web browsing and ad-blocking software was actually making Web surfing more dangerous by introducing security vulnerabilities into pages.

The paper, which was co-written by a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, will be delivered at the Usenix Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation in San Francisco.

To get their data, the team wrote software that would test whether or not someone visiting a test page on the University of Washington's Web site was viewing HTML that had been altered in transit.

In 16 instances ads were injected into the Web page by the visitor's Internet Service provider. "We're confirming some rumors that had been in the news last summer, that ISPs had been injecting these ads."

The service providers named by the researchers are generally small ISPs such as RedMoon, Mesa Networks and MetroFi, but the paper also named one of the largest ISPs in the U.S., XO Communications, as an ad injector. An XO spokesman said that the company does not engage in this practice and that any ad-injection linked to its network is probably being done by a "downstream" service provider that is purchasing network capacity from XO.

Report (pdf)




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