Things you need to know about device fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting, or browser fingerprinting or device identification, is a technique for uniquely identifying and tracking devices through their characteristics and attributes. These may include hardware and software information, browser settings, plugin installations, screen resolution settings, and time zone preferences – creating a “fingerprint,” which can then be used to track how these interact with websites and online services.


Advantages of device fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting offers various benefits, such as online security, fraud prevention, personalization, and analytics.


  1. Advanced Security Measures: Device fingerprinting can provide organizations with an additional layer of security by authenticating and identifying devices. Organizations can improve security protocols by understanding their features to ensure that only authorized devices can access sensitive information or systems.


  1. Fraud Detection and Prevention: Device fingerprinting can help financial institutions and e-commerce platforms identify suspicious activities quickly. Any time a device’s fingerprint changes unexpectedly or an unfamiliar transaction initiates, alerts indicate potential fraud – aiding financial institutions and platforms in stopping any unauthorized transactions that might otherwise have occurred.


  1. Reduced User Friction: Device fingerprinting can make authentication faster in certain scenarios, for instance, if an account is accessed with a known device, as authentication steps might be simplified due to its recognition by reducing additional authentication steps required from users and repetitive login processes.


  1. Personalization and User Experience: Websites and online services that recognize a device’s fingerprint can provide tailored experiences, remembering user preferences, settings, and browsing histories to offer more tailored and user-friendly services.


  1. Enhance Analytics and Metrics: Device fingerprinting allows websites to track user activity accurately across sessions, helping businesses analyze user patterns, enhance usability, and tailor marketing and content strategies based on real-time data. This enables device fingerprinting sites to gain accurate user behavior analysis.


  1. Cross-Device Tracking: Device fingerprinting allows cross-device tracking, providing an overall view of user interactions across various devices and a more comprehensive understanding of behavior and preferences for marketing campaigns and content delivery purposes. This data could prove immensely helpful.


  1. Security Compliance: For industries such as finance and healthcare that impose stringent compliance requirements, device fingerprinting can help meet security compliance. By only permitting authorized devices to access sensitive data or services, compliance requirements can be fulfilled more easily.


  1. Early Warning for Cybersecurity Threats: Variations in device fingerprints may be an early indicator of potential cybersecurity risks, such as malware or unauthorized access attempts, so monitoring them proactively is important for mitigating risk.


  1. User Identity Verification: Device fingerprinting can be part of an online service’s identity verification process to help authenticate users and lower the risk of impersonation or account takeover attempts. It does this by analyzing unique characteristics from their device that help verify its user, thus helping authenticate them as authentic individuals and eliminate the risk associated with account takeover or impersonation attempts.


  1. Marketing and Advertising Efficiency: Advertisers can use device fingerprinting to target ads based on a user’s device attributes and browsing history, more precisely, leading to greater engagement and conversion rates.


Device fingerprinting techniques

Device Fingerprinting Techniques Device fingerprinting involves gathering a range of attributes from a device and compiling them to create its unique identifier or “fingerprint,” which can then be used to distinguish it from similar devices.


  1. User Agent String Analysis: The user agent string is part of an HTTP header sent from a browser to a web server and contains information about its type, version, operating system version, and device characteristics. You may gain insight into your device’s characteristics by examining its contents.


  1. HTTP Header Analysis: In addition to the user agent string, other headers in an HTTP request can also provide vital insights, including IP addresses of devices accessing it, accepted content types, and language preferences of its user(s).


  1. Browser and Plugin Details: Device fingerprinting captures information about the browser’s version, rendering engine, and installed plugins. Taken together, these attributes can form the basis of an individual profile.


  1. Screen Resolution and Color Depth: Screen resolution and depth can provide useful clues regarding a device’s display capabilities, which could help identify it directly or limit the possibilities.


  1. Time Zone Setting: The time zone setting can help pinpoint the geographic location of a device. Its use becomes even more advantageous when combined with other attributes for location-based targeting.
  2. Installed Fonts and Language Preferences: Fonts installed on a device and its language settings can play an integral part in its fingerprint. OftenOften, the combination of fonts and language settings will be unique to that device.


  1. JavaScript-Based Techniques: JavaScript can gather device-specific details, such as an operating system version number, font selection options and plugin compatibility information, screen size requirements, etc. Libraries like “Fingerprints” were specifically created for this task.


  1. Canvas Fingerprinting: Canvas fingerprinting involves rendering text or images onto an HTML5 canvas element and measuring how it’s drawn – since its rendering behavior varies between devices and browsers, this method creates a unique fingerprint for every canvas to allow for its measurement.


  1. WebGL Fingerprinting: Similar to canvas fingerprinting, WebGL fingerprinting utilizes the capabilities and behavior of WebGL graphics API to produce a device fingerprint based on rendering characteristics.


  1. IP Address Analysis: While less distinctive than other attributes, IP addresses offer insight into a device’s geographic location and network characteristics.

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Key Aspects of Device Fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting involves collecting numerous characteristics about a device to create its unique identifier or “fingerprint.” These traits allow us to distinguish one device from another.


  1. Attributes Collection: Device fingerprinting involves collecting various attributes about a device, such as browser and OS info, hardware details, network characteristics, and more. These data points are usually collected using techniques like HTTP header analysis, Java Script methods, or HTML5 APIs.


  1. Distinguishability: Device fingerprinting aims to produce an identity for each device by combining multiple attributes into an identity signature that distinguishes between devices despite users attempting to mask or modify individual traits.


  1. Cross-Session and Cross-Device Tracking: Device fingerprints allow organizations to track user activity across various browsing sessions and devices, providing valuable insight into user patterns and preferences across platforms and devices.


  1. Privacy and Consent: Device fingerprinting raises serious privacy issues as it could be used to track users without their knowledge and consent. Fortunately, regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandate organizations collect user consent before collecting or using device-fingerprint data.


  1. Dynamic Attributes: Some attributes used in device fingerprinting, like browser version and installed plugins, may change over time, requiring periodic device fingerprint updates for accuracy.


  1. Static Attributes: Some aspects, like hardware characteristics, remain unchanged over time and can help provide more stable fingerprinting solutions.


  1. Browser and OS Independence: Device fingerprinting can work across various browsers and operating systems because its focus is on non-specific attributes that do not relate to specific browsers or platforms.



Device fingerprinting is a technique to accurately identify and track devices by collecting their unique attributes into a “fingerprint.” Organizations use device fingerprinting to differentiate devices, track user behavior, enhance security, and personalize user experiences. While device fingerprinting offers numerous benefits, such as fraud prevention, improved analytics, and tailored content delivery, it raises important concerns about user privacy and ethical use.