Your Fingerprints Are Blocking You – Here’s How To Solve This

The 5 ways your fingerprints are blocking you.
5 min read
Fingerprint blocking in data collection and web scraping

Companies are currently in a war on data. This battle is filled with defenseman attempting to limit access to sites and the offense, those trying to collect the publicly available data from the web. Regardless of the position you take, understanding device fingerprints and how they limit actions online is the fuel you are going to need.

Device Fingerprinting refers to all the characteristics of the device used to enter a site

Upon entering a domain, information is collected from your IP address, such as the location you are coming from, to provide relevant information, like pricing in the right currency. However, many other factors are taken into consideration, including the device you are using, the operating system you are running and more. These data pieces are collected so the site is displayed in the right format and the right language, but much more information is collected behind the scenes.

Every action taken online is tracked to provide a better user experience. This is commonly in the form of cookies and web storage, for example, an eCommerce site remembering what you put in your shopping cart. The tracked data is also used to hinder competition and to block unwanted visitors. How a site goes about limiting user actions is referred to as a blocking technique, and these are used by sites to limit user activity and hide information from competing companies. By understanding blocking techniques like device fingerprints, barriers are removed and the web becomes transparent again. With that said, here are the 5 basic layers of blocking you need to know about.

1. IP Fingerprinting

This is probably the most common blocking technique and is evident everywhere online. IP fingerprinting includes limitations such as only allowing certain geographical locations to access a site. It is also found in the form of limiting an IP’s actions by tracking the IP history and only allowing one account to be created, or one purchase to be made per IP. An IP’s history provides copious amounts of information, including other requests the IP has been used to make. Rate-limiting is another form of blocking an IP based on its history. It refers to set limitations on the number of requests an IP can make in a certain time frame and is commonly used to prevent crawlers from scraping a site. Avoiding the effects of IP fingerprinting is as easy as utilizing a proxy network and rotating your IP address every certain number of requests.

2. Header Fingerprinting

When sending a request, your scraping code may not always send headers in the right order to accurately mimic a real browsers’ request. This is especially true when requests are being manipulated to overcome specific sites’ blocking techniques. Websites check that the browser header fields information correlates with other information retrieved in the current session and previous sessions. The most common is validating that all the headers match what is expected for the user-agent, including the header case and order. By making sure the headers and case values match with the intended browser, you can easily overcome header fingerprint-based blockades.

3. TLS/HTTP Protocol Fingerprinting

Particular browsers use specific protocols and protocol versions, and many sites check to see if the right versions of TLS and HTTP are being used. This provides the target domain a means of differentiating abnormal requests, such as bots, from real users. For example, most scrapers are using HTTP/1.1, and most browsers use HTTP/2 when it’s available. By ensuring all protocol versions match the header in your browser, your requests will appear real, and your scraping unencumbered.

4. Client-Side Fingerprinting

This form of fingerprinting inspects the browser environment on the clients/user device. A user’s device contains endless amounts of data such as their time zone, device type, screen resolution, operating system, and many other aspects of their browser. All this data creates a unique identifier for the user, similar to a bar code that is client-specific. Also, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera all use webRTC for real-time communication between API’s (application programming interfaces), and webRTC can leak your IP data if it’s not correctly configured to route UDP traffic through your proxy. Disabling webRTC, in its entirety, can for specific sites be a red flag in itself. Every site is different and how to overcome client-side fingerprinting changes, but in a majority of cases, a virtual machine can solve this blockade.

5. Behavior Fingerprinting

Sites inspect the actions within a browser session to track if they appear normal. Normal behavior refers to human-like actions such as a cursor moving towards a button in a curve-like fashion. This curve is considered human-like as a bot would go directly to the button and trigger a click directly. Simple actions such as scrolling through information are tracked to differentiate real users from bots and crawlers. Machines are programmed to grab a specific piece of information and do not scroll through a page, which draws a red flag. If these actions within a browser session do not appear human-like, it can trigger a captcha or result in getting blocked from a site altogether.

With the mission of creating a more transparent web, Bright Data has worked hard on finding a solution to overcome these 5 fingerprint attributes. Bright Data’s Web Unlocker was developed by scraping experts as the solution to mask your original device fingerprint and manage IPs, allowing for the collection of the most accurate data. With 100% success rates the upgrade proxy ensures requests appear exactly like a real browser. Requests are sent through API or the Proxy Manager and the resulting data is returned in the same format. Utilizing software like the Bright Web Unlocker takes into account these blocking techniques and is the tool you need to guarantee your victorious in this ever-evolving war on data.