Will my browsing history affect my computer security?

18 Sep

A question that IT security experts are often asked is the one about deleting browsing history on a computer. What people want to know, is if the browsing history on a computer can actually affect its security.

The answer to this question is two-part. On the one hand, deleting your browsing history cannot protect you against viruses and malware, unfortunately. If only it were that simple! On the other hand, there is some good to deleting your browsing history, and that’s to ensure that the personal particulars on your computer are kept to a minimum.

How deleting your browsing history can protect your security

When you take the time to delete your browsing history, unscrupulous individuals won’t be able to see which websites you are visiting, or the personal particulars (such as your full name, ID number, email address, passwords, credit card details, banking details and so on) that you are inputting. Nor can they see the services that you access online. It’s a step in the right direction to protecting yourself against identity theft, fraud and data breaches, but it’s not the answer.

The bad news

The bad news is that if you’re using Windows, when you delete your browsing history it only removes the files from the immediate view of potential criminals. That means that if they have enough extra time with the device (if your laptop is stolen for example), the files that you deleted, can be retrieved and restored fairly easily.

Windows deletes files by removing the file from the directory, but will store them in the computer’s “free space” where they will, over time be overwritten with other data. Yes, they will be overwritten, but that could take weeks, months…maybe even years! In the meantime, your local cyber-criminal can use file recovery tools to gain unauthorised access to your information. What’s worse is that all of these file recovery tools are very often available, free of charge online.

The good news

All hope however is not lost! You can permanently and securely delete your browsing history and other sensitive files from your computer by making use of a privacy software. This type of software includes tools designed to source confidential information contained in your history files and replace them with a series of random characters. It will do this for text files, images and URLs.

Security Tip: To ensure that your devices are always spic and span, make use of data encrypted cloud backups and then clear your browsing history and other sensitive files with privacy software.

Do you clear your browsing history regularly? Maybe it’s time that you did!

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