Fusion performance in tokamaks hinges critically on the efficacy of the edge transport barrier (ETB) in suppressing energy losses. The new concept of 'fingerprints' is introduced to identify the instabilities that cause transport losses in the ETBs of many of today's experiments, from among widely posited candidates. Analysis of the gyrokinetic-Maxwell equations and gyrokinetic simulations of experiments reveals that each mode type produces characteristic ratios of transport in the various channels: density, heat, and impurities. This, together with experimental observations of transport in some channel or of the relative size of the driving sources of channels, can identify or determine the dominant modes causing energy transport. In multiple H-mode cases with edge-localized modes that are examined, these fingerprints indicate that magnetohydrodynamic (MHD)-like modes are apparently not the dominant agent of energy transport; rather, this role is played by micro-tearing modes (MTMs) and electron temperature gradient (ETG) modes, and in addition, possibly by ion temperature gradient/ trapped electron modes (ITG/TEM) on JET (Joint European 'Torus). MHD-like modes may dominate the electron particle losses. Fluctuation frequency can also be an important means of identification, and is often closely related to the transport fingerprint. The analytical arguments unify and explain previously disparate experimental observations on multiple devices, including DIII-D, JET, and ASDEX-U. Detailed simulations of two DIII-D ETBs also demonstrate and corroborate this.