Internet behaviour could identify online criminals

New research into browsing behaviour could help police in the investigation of online crime.

Jun 22, 2016
By Paul Jacques

New research into browsing behaviour could help police in the investigation of online crime.

The study shows how it can indicate a person’s personality and provide a unique digital signature that can identify that person, sometimes after just 30 minutes of browsing.

“Our research suggests a person’s personality traits can be deduced by their general internet usage. This differs from other studies that have only looked at the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter,” said Dr Ikusan Adeyemi, a research scholar at the Universiti Teknologi in Malaysia and lead author of this new study.

“That we show these behavioral signatures exist opens up new research into understanding online behavior.”

Research linking personality traits to computer usage has typically focused on social media. For example, extrovert people tend to use these platforms to enlarge their boundary of friends and influence, while introvert individuals spend more time on social media to compensate for a probable lack of physical interaction.

However, a person’s general online browsing behavior can also reflect their choice, preference and reflexes, which is largely controlled by their unique psychological characteristics.

This latest study recruited volunteers from Universiti Teknologi and monitored their internet usage. This included many factors such as the duration of the internet session, number of websites browsed and total number of requests made.

In addition, the volunteers completed a test to reveal their personality characteristics over five categories: openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The analysis of this data revealed strong links between a person’s personality and browsing behavior. For example, researchers found an individual’s level of conscientiousness could be distinguished within a 30-minute session of online browsing.

“Online marketing organisations can use our findings to reliably tailor their product to a specific audience; it can be used to develop an intelligent internet service that can predict and personalise a user’s experience,” explained Dr Adeyami.

“It can also be used as a complementary way of increasing security for online identification and authentication. Law enforcement agencies can also apply our findings in the investigation of online crime cases.”

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