16 February, 2005

Hide and seek on the Web: Cloaking -ZdNet:
Jay Allen considered his ex-girlfriend a "rabbit in the pot" stalker for the repeatedly nasty comments she posted to his blog. So he tried passive resistance by drawing a virtual curtain around his Web site. The trick, called cloaking, made his blog appear seemingly abandoned to her, while his regular postings were available to anyone else with a Web browser.

"I found out the Internet Protocol address (of her computer) and delivered her a static page anytime she visited," said Allen, an author and software developer. "That worked really well, until one day she went to an Internet cafe and found a month-and-a-half worth of postings and left a bunch of ugly comments again." Allen added: "Still, it's a really neat idea to be able to cloak a page."

An online retailer, for example, might show one price for a digital camera to the public, and another price 15 percent higher for the same product to its rival. Consequently, the rival might price its product disproportionately and lose customers.

New tools to help companies "cloak" their traffic while surfing the Web are becoming an attractive defense as a result.

Privately held Anonymizer, based in San Diego, began selling a corporate Internet cloaking service in 2003 called the Enterprise Chameleon. The product, a piece of hardware and software linked to a corporate server, will filter all employee traffic through its IP-changing servers and randomly issue untraceable IP addresses.
Sales of the product jumped 500 percent from 2003 to 2004, and this year the company expects corporate sales to comprise 50 percent of its revenue.

"When you're using a cloak, you're trying to avoid this logging of data," he added.

Privacy experts say that pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are interested in keeping their online moves private, for fear of outsiders' ability to reverse engineer what's looked at in public databases. What companies research and read in the form of white papers could tip outsiders off to future products, for example.

Companies also have reverse engineered IP filtering to target and attract new employees. For example, during the dot-com heyday when hiring was tough, 3Com changed its Web page to highlight employment opportunities when it appeared Cisco employees were visiting. 90% of corporations are mining competitive intelligence from their Web log files. "You give up a tremendous amount of information when you're going to a competitor's site, like what you're working on, what products you're interested in, etc.,

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