Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tell-Tale Browser Cache

Browser History Snooping
Why You Should Care:Maintaining your online privacy can save your job--and your marriage

Why You Should Care:
A browser's cache is a treasure trove of valuable personal information.Scenario: Maybe you've just received some bad news from your doctor--a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, something you may not be ready to reveal to others.

You decide to do a little Web research on the topic, but don't want any trace of what you were doing to remain on the PC, lest someone stumble upon your secret. Or perhaps you've been shopping for the perfect engagement ring. If the intended recipient were to see the names of jewelry Web sites among the list of fragmented files during a defrag session, it could spoil the whole surprise.

Designed as a way to speed up surfing, the cache keeps copies of the text, images, and other snippets of code from the Web pages a person visits. Obviously, you could learn a lot about someone's surfing habits and interests by dumpster-diving in this collection--much more than by just looking at the browser's History list.

Other saved content might include the text of e-mail messages read via Web mail. For some time, Firefox, Safari, and some other browsers have given users a lot of control over cache trashing, but Internet Explorer 8 will be the first version of IE to offer a secure browsing feature, called InPrivate, designed to eliminate any traces of history when you shut down IE.

InPrivate deletes the browser's history, cookies, and Registry traces that would enable someone to retrace your online steps. Nevertheless, it doesn't render the cache a clean slate.Fix: The best way to keep things clean is to prevent the browser from leaving anything on the hard drive.

There are two ways to achieve this objective: Instruct IE to save its cache to a portable drive that you keep plugged in whenever you need to use the browser, or use a software utility to wipe the cache securely after you're done surfing.You can do the former (using IE) in four steps: Open the Internet Options control panel, click the Settings button in the Temporary Internet Files section, click the Move Folder button, and navigate to a folder on your external drive.

To do the latter, try an excellent free tool called Eraser, which securely deletes browser cache files (and other data) by overwriting the files numerous times.

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