Residue-Free Computing

Published in Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, 2021

Recommended citation: Arkema, Logan and Sherr, Micah "Residue-Free Computing" Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, vol. 2021, no.4, 2021, pp.389-405.

Abstract: Computer applications often leave traces of residue that enable forensic examiners to gain a detailed understanding of the actions a user performed on a computer. Such digital breadcrumbs are left by a large variety of applications, potentially (and indeed likely) unbeknownst to their users. This paper presents the concept of residue-free computing in which a user can operate any existing application installed on their computer in a mode that prevents trace data from being recorded to disk, thus frustrating the forensic process and enabling more privacy-preserving computing. In essence, residue-free computing provides an “incognito mode” for any application. We introduce our implementation of residue-free computing, ResidueFree, and motivate ResidueFree by inventorying the potentially sensitive and privacy-invasive residue left by popular applications. We demonstrate that ResidueFree allows users to operate these applications without leaving trace data, while incurring modest performance overheads.

Download paper here

This paper has a dedicated project page and a github repository with more technical information about our implementation and links to an Ubuntu VM with ResidueFree ready to run.