Joe from Joliet writes:I’m tired of getting adware and spyware on my computer. Last week, my geeky brother got on my computer and showed me a bunch of web sites I had visited–he even found my webmail password. Is there any way to keep my computer from storing all this stuff?
The Geek answers:Thanks for your question, Joe; it’s a good one. The short answer is , yes, you can fix this; but let me explain a bit about what is going on here. Most web browsers use some form of caching to enhance your browsing experience. Caching is a way of storing the web pages you visit on your hard drive, rather than downloading them every time. There’s no need to download every web page every time you access it because web pages don’t change very often and it takes longer to download a page from the ‘Net than it does to display it from the cache your hard drive. So, depending on how much your browser is set to store in its cache, someone in the know may be able to come along and see what web sites you’ve been looking at. That’s what your brother did. You must have your browser set to remember your webmail password, too. Bad idea if you value your privacy; I always type my passwords into every field.
So, if you’re worried about what someone might see on your system, there is a simple way to prevent anything from being stored in the cache, history and remembered password files. It’s called SandboxIE, and it’s probably one of the best privacy-assurance applications out there because you don’t have to do anything but run IE (or any other browser) in the sandbox. What is a sandbox, you ask? Well, it’s like a secure little section of your computer that is walled off from your operating system; nothing can get out of it unless you let it, and when you shut it down, anything that was there is gone, erased, nada, nothing. Even if the nastiest spyware on the Internet managed to get into the sandbox, as soon as you close it, the bad boy is gone. And so is the history list, the cached pages, EVERYTHING. Pretty slick. See the Wikipedia entry about sandboxes for more info. Steve Gibson, star of Security Now! dedicated a podcast to application sandboxes that you can download here.
As always, if you have further questions, you can “Ask the Geek”!