One thing that we take for granted while we surf the Web is the content that is hidden in our browser history. We usually don’t pay attention to this because all we think about is that our Web experience is the best it can be. But at one point have you thought about what it contains?

If you dig deep into your Internet browser’s history, you will find various information such as:

  • Browsing and Download History
  • Form & Search Bar History – what you have looked for in Firefox’s search bar and the information you have entered into the forms of the sites you have visited.
  • Cookies
  • Site Preferences – These are the preferences that you have saved on a site such as zoom levels, site permissions, and character encoding.
  • Active Logins – These are sites that you have logged into that you have asked to remember that you are logged in.
  • Offline Website Data – This is the data that allows you to use a website even when you’re offline (only if you have given authorization).

If you have a computer wherein you are the only user, then you may not think of erasing your browsing history since you’re the only one who has access to your computer. It’s a different story if you have used a public computer or one that you share with others. If this is your case, then erasing your computer’s browsing history might be a good idea because your information could fall into the wrong hands.

What Happens If You Don’t Clear Your Browsing History

You may be thinking, “What harm can someone do to me by gaining access to my browsing history?” They may not have access to information such as your social security number, but they could have access to information such as your email, your full name, your address, your birth date, and many more. How is this possible? If you re-read the things that are in your browsing history, you will see “Form & Search Bar History.” This contains information you have entered into forms while you were surfing the Web such as your address, email, etc.

You may have noticed that when you re-visited a site and try to access your email inbox, it automatically showed the email you had previously used to access that site. If that happened to you on your computer, it could happen to you when you use someone else’s computer.

If someone were trying to get a hold of sensitive information, they would only have to type in the first few letters (anyone can guess) of the entry, and then Firefox would show a drop-down menu with what that person typed into the form previously. They only need to press the down arrow key when the field is empty.

How Your Information Could Be Used

 

The problem with revealing this kind of information is that you can fall victim to identity theft. You enter your birth date on one site, and then reveal your mother’s maiden name on another site, and finally you enter your address on another. By leaving these bits and pieces of information on various sites and in your browsing history, they can be used to hack your account by guessing your password because you’re leaving a trail.

If this information falls into the wrong hands, your privacy could then be seriously compromised. By not clearing your browsing history, you saved them lots of time trying to figure out what bank you are associated with. Maybe before they had no intention of hacking your bank account, but since they know where you bank, why not?

How to Protect Yourself

 

You can avoid leaving this information online by browsing the Web anonymously. For starters, you can use a private a private browser window. The advantages of using a private browsing session is that third-party cookies (these are the culprits that track your movement between the different sites you visit) are blocked, and first-party cookies are erased when you’re done, so when the next person uses the computer, they will have no way of knowing what you were doing or seeing what your email is just by clicking on the Email box. The solution is as easy as using incognito mode.

You can also safeguard yourself by blocking or deleting third-party cookies. This can stop certain types of tracking, but not all. Using software such as CCleaner can help clear regular cookies and Flash.



This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 6:43:42 AM and is filed under Computer Security & Data Protection.

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