Assume that my Internet history is made public (accidentally or on purpose). And this release is over 24 hours since the visits were made.

Also, assume that there aren't embarrassing sites on there: there isn't any blackmail potential.

(My most embarrassing page visited in the last week is actually the TV tropes page for my little pony, for which I have a valid reason and a witness).

What potential attacks does this allow? I'm mildly concerned about seeing massive links like:


in my history and worrying that secure information might be passed in a URL somewhere.

I am aware that this makes it easier to impersonate my identity, and I'm mostly interested in the leakage of information via the URL itself.

I have a general interest, but this is motivated by a test project I'm running.

  • 4
    Is it just your browser history or it a complete account/host compromise? It matters because, while your browser history might not provide much (unless you're into obscure porn), if they had access to your computer/profile, cookies, key loggers, screen scrapers are a whole different ballgame.
    – thepip3r
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:53
  • 9
    I can't believe that nobody mentioned spearphishing yet. With recent information of what you look at an attacker could easily send fake invoices or otherwise create very undetectable phishing mails.
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 20:58
  • 5
    I once worked at a place, where I had to login to some system. It turned out that the "login" was a url with a specific session key. The server recognized the session id, and I was logged in. This kind of information could be in your browser history. That this practice is unsecure in all kinds of ways is another story.
    – Fizk
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 9:39
  • 3
    What's your valid reason for searching MLP? Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:44
  • 6
    @SombreroChicken - household argument on the topic of "there are NO sidekicks in fiction with telepathic powers
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:59

8 Answers 8


Your question might be more undefined than you realise. Any kind of data can be passed using URL parameters. Usernames, passwords, authentication tokens, settings, form data, or anything the web developer chooses. It's not always good practice to use URL parameters to for this, but it is always possible.

And it's entirely up to each individual web developer on each individual page (not just site) as to what might be exposed and when. So you might not be able to predict what might be exposed.

So, to answer your question, in the worst case, you could experience a complete and utter disclosure of any amount of personal data including credentials.

By request, I did a search for the practice of "passwords in URL parameters" and restricted results to this year. Here's one of the top hits:


That's a forum from Feb 2018 from a major, publicly traded company talking about how to do this.

Here is OWASP's official page on this vulnerability:

The parameter values for 'user', 'authz_token', and 'expire' will be exposed in the following locations when using HTTP or HTTPS:

Web Logs
Shared Systems
Browser History
Browser Cache
Shoulder Surfing

  • 7
    The only thing I'd add to this is that the problem is also worse because while you're correct that any data can be passed via URL, the problem is compounded by the fact that what information is passed via a URL and whether and how it is secured is up to each individual company you're visiting and furthermore, the standards of the web programmers who developed each page. So you could never say by looking at one URL that there wasn't any sensitive data passed--you couldn't even say that about different URLs from the same site...
    – thepip3r
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:00
  • 4
    and even if passwords aren't passed in the query string, if the session token is, you'd better hope that the developers restricted it to a single IP address and limited time validity...
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 4:02
  • 1
    @BenVoigt: Limit to a single IP address is a completely broken and outdated practice. In a modern setting IP addresses change frequently (mobile networks, switching between cellular and wifi, etc.) and IPv6 even has features to intentionally cycle them for privacy purposes. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    @BenVoigt: That's utterly broken ux and teaches users a security anti-pattern: reentering passwords when prompted, which they should never do. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 19:14
  • 1
    @BenVoigt: That's a different feature than the one I'm talking about. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 0:49

Quite a bit actually:

  • Extortion based off content
  • Mapping systems that are not public
  • Sensitive parameters in certain requests
  • Personal information


That search of yours that may be embarrassing and taken out of context. A WebMD search for a medical condition you don't want made known to co-workers for example. A search that was best done in incognito mode you forgot about.

Mapping systems that are not public

How about your works intranet site or that production web portal, well those names are going to pop up in your history now and if its something like Jenkins - thats a great candidate for a DNS rebind attack.

Sensitive parameters in certain requests

If you visit a site that just does the internet wrong and the parameter contains an API key, password, credential or just an account ID well that is captured and can be used now.

Personal information

I see you've been searching for holidays in March for 2 weeks - that would be a great time to break in to your house or impersonate you. Looking for an engagement ring well that sounds like something worth stealing. You did a google map from your address to another location?


One of the threats I'd like to mention that has not been named yet is de-anonymization.

The URIs in your history could leak information about your user accounts on different sites - for instance if you constantly check your own profile on social media sites. If you use some web services anonymously and others under your real name (Facebook, Twitter) an adversary can very easily de-anonymize and dox you. That can be especially damning for you if you appear on a platform anonymously and want it to stay that way (dating platforms, file sharing platforms, free speech platforms).

Data on the internet also has the tendency to be there for a long time, so this threat is very persistent.

  • 3
    Not to mention that just about any internet user is likely to have been caught up in one breach or another where a password has leaked. And since way too many users reuse passwords, if someone has one of your breached password and a list of sites you visit, it could be trivial for them to breach one of your sites.
    – Shawn
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 21:14

I'll try my hand at this one... Keep in mind that there is a difference between 'all possible' and 'targeted attacks'. With that in mind, I'd break up the attack types into at least two categories: cyber and behavioral. They can be derived from one another but are inherently different in nature.

Cyber threats to someone having access to your URLs:

  • HTTP POST/GET Variables -- If a particular website practices poor security standards like including sensitive personally identifiable information or secrets (passwords) in reversible or plaintext methods, this is probably the most apparent--but as I said in @schroeder's answer comments, you'd have to evaluate each URL as https://someco.com/sub1/?var1=something;var2=somethingelse might be securely written but http://someco.com/sub2/var1=something;var2=secrets. This is because most large web presences have a small army of web developers working on their front-end, back-end, and everything in between. Where there is a lack of standards in each org (which is never known to us, end-users) one part of a page may be worse off than others.

  • While session data also has interesting information, it cannot be gleaned from URLs alone. So while interesting from a host-compromise scenario, it's not applicable here which is why I asked for scope of the question in my original comment.

Cyber+Behavioral threats to someone having access to your URLs

  • Personal Weaknesses: What sites you frequent indicates social patterns: likes/dislikes, politics, health, wealth, etc. e.g.: If an attacker is targeting you for exploitation and knows you're visiting debt consolidation sites, they might offer you financial help in return for favors. If you're frequenting ashleymadison.com and you're married, they might approach you with blackmail to not out you to your spouse. I don't mean this to be offensive but assuming you're un-blackmailable is rather naive. This information can also allow the attacker(s) to cater attacks to you, in the case of spearfishing. e.g. If the attacker(s) know you visit fidelity.com, yahoo.com, bankofamerica.com, receiving a spoofed email from one of those domains may yield better results on opening email->attachment, or clicking link rather than if it came from xyz.com or S0m3rand0mD0main.ru.

  • Personal Habits: If you're a creature of habit (as most people are), over time, they can see the times of the day you're connected to the Internet and potentially from what device(s) and what location(s). If the attacker is targeting your house, they can derive when you work, when you're home, and how erratic a confidence-level is in predicting where you'll be tomorrow or the next day.


To add to the post about information leakage in URL:

An attacker that has this may:

1: Extract what sites you use to try and log into to see if you are using the same creds [assumes attacker has captured a cred]

2: This info grants much more advanced knowledge for creating phishing attacks EX: "you've been selected to screen the new MLP season [whatever]"

3: Possible physical tracking based on sites "oh their kid goes to "little gals daycare" because I see them log into to pay that bill"

Could be more depending on what's in there.

  • I'm not sure how the URL parameters provide all that. Just the URLs would be enough.
    – schroeder
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 22:54
  • 1
    @schroeder I didn't see that the question asked for only information that would need parameters. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 23:15
  • @Acccumulation the focus is on the parameters, yes
    – schroeder
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 23:30
  • 1
    @schroeder parameters are mentioned but the question is: "What attacks are made possible by public release of my web history?" Please make sure to clearly check the question. Thank you.
    – bashCypher
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 0:10
  • @bashCypher The OP discounts the sites themselves (domains), and explicitly states is concerned about "secure information might be passed in a URL somewhere" and " leakage of information via the URL itself". And the example is clearly about the large number of parameters.
    – schroeder
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 8:06

In the case of a dedicated attacker specifically targeting you, they might identify some small, weakly protected amateur website you frequent and your username on it, and break into the site in the hope of finding a password that you reuse elsewhere, or stealing some other sensitive data; maybe even actively create blackmailable content using your account.

In the more likely case where the attacker is using some automated tool to analyze the web history of many people, it's what others have said - mapping intrawebs and maybe finding login information for incompetently written websites.


Having your browsing history exposed means the attacker has in possession the list of URLs your browser has accessed. From a complex URL an attacker can identify this information:

  1. Protocol
  2. Subdomain
  3. Domain
  4. Port
  5. Path
  6. Parameters of a query
  7. Fragment

Enter image description here

Now, your privacy depends on the way the developer has built the site.

If you logged in on a website that has an URL like this:


then the attacker has your credentials for that site.

Some of possible attacks would be:

  1. SQL injection
  2. URL manipulation
  3. Directory traversal
  4. Identify theft

In simple words, your privacy/risk depends on the security level the site has.

  • 5
    All of the attacks you list are attacks that could be possible against sites that he visited, none of them are attacks against him made possible by disclosure of the urls. URL Manipulation could be relevant, but I don't see how sql injection or directory traversal are. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:32
  • Bad security of a site, brings automatically a threat to the users whom have information stored on that site.
    – Vini7
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:36
  • 7
    Absolutely, but that threat exists with or without OP's browser history being exposed. The browser history may allow someone targeting him to look for vulnerabilities in those specific sites because they know he has an account there, but I certainly wouldn't say "sql injection is made possible by public release of browser history". Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:44
  • The line about the password in the URL is the only part of this answer that is related to the question.
    – Tgr
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 8:25

I think there's also another whole layer of attack which may come from his own level of security awareness and behavior. If he, for instance, reuses passwords, anything he can access using that password could be leaked/accessed/whatever. If you don't now specifically what's IN the web browsing history, and you can't contextualize it within his actual usage patterns and behaviors, you can't really assess the exposure.

His question--what attacks are potentially exposed by releasing browsing history--fundametnally is the wrong question. The answer is the same as "what attacks are possible from any information exposure" -- and the answer is that it depends on what that information actually is. The fact that it's web browsing history only limits the size of what information is potentially exposed, not any implication or value of that data.

From a risk standpoint, applying a control like "erasing my browsing history" regularly does a great deal to eliminate the unknowns. In the context of his project of posting his web browsing history, the right thing to do might be to eliminate anything after a question mark or hashmark from what gets published -- then, it's largely going to be a timestamped traffic pattern, rather than a content pattern.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .