Obfuscating Text with CSS

By Deane Barker on February 20, 2011

How To Phish, Protect Your Email, and Defeat Copy-And-Paste with CSS: Here’s a sneaky but facepalm-obvious way to mess with users.  Basically, you embedd random characters and other text inside of your real text, then hide the fake text with CSS.  It looks fine in a browser, but copies-and-pastes with all the crap.

A publisher could generate, on the server side, a new random mess of HTML and CSS that would render their text uncopyable. This also has the side-effect of making your pages impossible for search engines to index sensibly; it’s an easy way to keep your information human-readable but cloaked from Google’s all-seeing Sauronic eye.

He details some other, more nefarious uses as well.



  1. I often see what I assume is this same technique done on article titles. I’ll go to tweet some article I read as “title: url”. The url copies fine from the address bar, but when I paste the title I get the title, an excerpt or summary, and the url, often as “Read the full article at “.

  2. Putting on my tin foil hat for a few, I honestly don’t see the same internet we have now in about 5-10. Between the ongoing arms race in the security area(this being another step in that direction), the whole tiered internet, (you want to read emails with pictures in them, oh that will be an extra $5 a month), the music and movie industry adding DRM to everything and anything even remotely networked, and the advent of people supporting walled gardens ala app stores i.e. being told what they can and can not do with their device. I just don’t see it.

    As a certain speed metal band once said, “if there’s a new way, I’ll be the first in line, but it better work this time.”

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