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September 2006 - Ask the Geek Ask the Geek

Archive for September, 2006

Protect your privacy with SandboxIE

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”!


The Geek


Security Now!

For those of you interested in personal computer security — as anyone who owns a PC should be — you simply don’t want to miss out on the Security Now! podcast produced by GRC’s Steve Gibson (author of the famous SpinRite disk maintenance and recovery software) and Twit.Tv’s Leo Laporte. As Steve says: “TechTV’s Leo Laporte and I take 30 to 60 minutes near the end of each week to discuss important issues of personal computer security. Sometimes we’ll discuss something that just happened. Sometimes we’ll talk about long-standing problems, concerns, or solutions. Either way, every week we endeavor to produce something interesting and important for every personal computer user.”

While I consider these discussions a bit above the level of the average PC user, the “…interesting and important…” part is certainly true. Steve and Leo engage in lively banter that grabs your attention and won’t let go. Steve’s passion coupled with Leo’s insightful — and very savvy — questions make every podcast an event. This Geek has been caught listening to both parts of “How the Internet Works” multiple times. Yeah, I knew a lot about it, being a network and security specialist, but Steve managed to put a spin on it that hadn’t occured to me; I walked away with a whole new respect for the geniuses who designed it all. And did you know, “Most people don’t think of common NAT routers as hardware firewalls, but ANY NAT router inherently provides terrific security and protection against incoming malicious traffic”? Well, duh! I didn’t even think about it.NAT is one of the best things to happen to the Internet. (But I still ran ShieldsUp! Just to be sure.)

Security Now! has become my weekly “must have” podcast while I’m trying to catch up on all of the past episodes. Each episode has SIX resources:

High quality 64 kbps mp3 audio file (the podcast, available from several sources — check out the website)
Quarter size, bandwidth-conserving,16 kbps (lower quality) mp3 audio file
A web page with any supplementary notes
A web page text transcript of the episode
A simple text transcript of the episode
Ready-to-print PDF (Acrobat) transcript

Believe me. Listen to a couple of these, and you’ll be hooked.

Until next time, I remain

The Geek

Filed in: Computers, Security
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