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How to Truly Browse in Private

Private Browsing? Not So Private.
All the modern browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc...) come with what has affectionately been dubbed "porn mode." Though it goes by different names in different browsers (InPrivate, Private Browsing, Incognito), the idea is the same; they keep your online journeys hidden by deleting or rejecting cookies, not tracking history, and emptying the cache when you quit. Unfortunately, these tricks only solve part of the privacy equation, and dedicated snoops could still see what sites you're visiting. Geeky productivity blog Lifehacker has put together a great guide that exposes how these private browsing modes fail to truly cover your tracks, and how to better hide your browsing habits (for whatever reasons you might have).

The big problems are the DNS cache and Flash cookies, neither of which are covered by browsers' privacy controls. DNS, which is often described as the Internet equivalent of a phone book, translates Web site names (such as Switched.com) into IP addresses (e.g., 127.0.0.1). These IP addresses are saved locally to speed up access to those pages in the future. Private browsing modes don't clear this cache, which means that somebody could tell what sites you'd been visiting just by looking at locally stored IP addresses, even if you'd cleared your browser history.


Flash-powered sites, like regular HTML Web sites, use cookies to track things such as whether you're logged in, what videos you view, and other such useful information. (They can also be used to track what you do for nefarious purposes, but that's not our concern today.) Sadly, while browsers' privacy settings clear out the cookies that Web sites deposit, they leave Flash data alone. That means that everything from your viewed videos to Web sites will be clear as day to anyone who peeks in your Flash "#SharedObjects" folder.

Cleaning these things up is as easy as typing "ipconfig /flushdns" into the command prompt (or 'Run' box, whichever you prefer), and deleting the contents of "%appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects". You can also cover your tracks with Firefox's Objection extension and CCleaner, which will take care of any traces left by all browsers.

Visit Lifehacker for a more in-depth look at how 'private browsing' modes fail. There, the geekier among you will also learn how to write scripts that automatically erase all traces of your Web-based activity. [From: Lifehacker]

Tags: incognito, InPrivate, privacy, private browsing, PrivateBrowsing, top

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