How Unique and Traceable are Usernames?

9 years 2 months ago
How Unique and Traceable are Usernames?
Abstract. Usernames are ubiquitously used for identification and authentication purposes on web services and the Internet at large, ranging from the local-part of email addresses to identifiers in social networks. Usernames are generally alphanumerical strings chosen by the users and, by design, are unique within the scope of a single organization or web service. In this paper we investigate the feasibility of using usernames to trace or link multiple profiles across services that belong to the same individual. The intuition is that the probability that two usernames refer to the same physical person strongly depends on the “entropy” of the username string itself. Our experiments, based on usernames gathered from real web services, show that a significant portion of the users’ profiles can be linked using their usernames. In collecting the data needed for our study, we also show that users tend to choose a small number of related usernames and use them across many services. ...
Daniele Perito, Claude Castelluccia, Mohamed Ali K
Added 19 Aug 2011
Updated 19 Aug 2011
Type Journal
Year 2011
Where CORR
Authors Daniele Perito, Claude Castelluccia, Mohamed Ali Kâafar, Pere Manils
Comments (0)