Website Fingerprinting on Encrypted Proxies: A Flow-Context-Aware Approach and Countermeasures

Xiaobo Ma, Jian Qu, Mawei Shi, Bingyu An, Jianfeng Li, Xiapu Luo, Junjie Zhang, Zhenhua Li, Xiaohong Guan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Website fingerprinting (WFP) could infer which websites a user is accessing via an encrypted proxy by passively inspecting the traffic characteristics of accessing different websites between the user and the proxy. Designing WFP attacks is crucial for understanding potential vulnerabilities of encrypted proxies, which guides the design of defensive measures against WFP. In this paper, we design a novel WFP attack against (popular) encrypted proxies that relay connections between the user and the proxy individually (e.g., Shadowsocks, V2Ray), and accordingly implement lightweight countermeasures to effectively defend against the attack. The attack features flow-context-aware and is both accurate and immediately deployable, because it fully considers the obstacle (dubbed training-testing asymmetry) that fundamentally limits the practicability of WFP and addresses the obstacle with built-in spatial-temporal flow correlation mechanism. We implement the countermeasure as middleboxes installed on both the client and server sides of encrypted proxies, without altering any existing infrastructures for compatibility. The middleboxes can obfuscate a website’s flow regularities across different visits. Large-scale experiments in real-world scenarios demonstrate that the WFP attack can generally achieve a detection rate above 98.8% with a false positive rate below 0.2%. The countermeasure forces the attack’s false positive rate to be above 0.2 and true positive rate to be below 0.9 with just five persistent TCP connections while introducing very limited bandwidth overhead (e.g., 0.49%) and almost-zero additional network latency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 16
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2023


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