Header Enrichment or ISP Enrichment: Emerging Privacy Threats in Mobile Networks

TitleHeader Enrichment or ISP Enrichment: Emerging Privacy Threats in Mobile Networks
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsVallina-Rodriguez, N., Sundaresan S., Kreibich C., & Paxson V.
Other Numbers3773

HTTP header enrichment allows mobile operators to annotate HTTP connections via the use of a wide range of request headers. Operators employ proxies to introduce suchheaders for operational purposes, and—as recently widelypublicized—also to assist advertising programs in identifying the subscriber responsible for the originating traffic,with significant consequences for the user’s privacy. In thispaper, we use data collected by the Netalyzr network troubleshooting service over 16 months to identify and characterize HTTP header enrichment in modern mobile networks.We present a timeline of HTTP header usage for 299 mobileservice providers from 112 countries, observing three maincategories: (1) unique user and device identifiers (e.g., IMEIand IMSI), (2) headers related to advertising programs, and(3) headers associated with network operations.


This work was partially supported by funding provided to ICSI through National Science Foundation grants CNS : 1213157 (“User-Centric Network Measurement”); CNS : 1237265 ("Beyond Technical Security: Developing an Empirical Basis for Socio-Economic Perspectives"); and CNS : 1111672 ("Measuring and Modeling the Dynamics of IPv4 Address Exhaustion"). Additional funding was provided by the DHS Directorate of Science and Technology under grant N66001-12-C-0128. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the DHS.

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM Workshop on Hot Topics in Middleboxes and Network Function Virtualization (HotMiddlebox 2015), London

Abbreviated Authors

N. Vallina-Rodriguez, S. Sundaresan, C. Kreibich, and V. Paxson

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings