A finger is a program that displays information about someone on the Internet.
While once widely used as a means of identifying whether or not someone was logged on to the Internet and to get information about other Internet users, Finger protocol is no longer widely supported due to the security risks it posed.
If you are running a system with a finger client, opening a command prompt and typing “finger” followed by the e-mail address of the person you want to know more about will tell you whether or not the person is logged on, what their actual name is, and when they last logged on. While there are a handful of services that still utilize finger clients, chances are even if you are running one, you won’t be able to get any information from it. This is because most now require users to have special file permission in order to view another user’s information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Finger no longer supported?
Finger was a popular protocol in the early days of the Internet, when the Internet was primarily used as a method of communicating directly between computers, rather than a source of public information for anyone in the world. As the Internet grew and millions of users were suddenly online, largely searching for information rather than specific users, there was not only less need for finger clients, but also more risk in continuing to support them. For example, companies running a finger client could easily be targeted for a social engineering attack, in which a hacker uses the finger client to obtain names, email addresses, and phone numbers for employees, which could then be used to contact employees and request confidential information.
Are there still ways to find information about other Internet users?
There are plenty of sources of information about people online. If you’re simply looking to find out if someone is available online, the try connecting with them via a social networking site or instant messaging program. Many will let you know if a user is logged into their network and their current status (free, busy, away from their computer, etc.). Social networking sites such as Facebook are also a great way to find out information about your contacts. Facebook allows users to select which information they are comfortable sharing and who they want to share it with (their contacts, only select contacts, or anyone).
Many businesses now have an internal system for identifying who is online and what their contact information is. It may be run through their email application, inter-office messaging service, or the company intranet. Such information is typically only available to internal employees.
If you are looking for information about individuals you are not connected to on a social network and don’t work with, there are a number of “people search” sites online that may be able to assist you, though the information on them is never guaranteed and frequently outdated.