How to beat 22 Web security threats

Forewarned is forearmed. We investigate the latest and most deadly tech dangers, and explain how to fight back.

1. Internet privacy I: cache

There are some things you don't want the world to know - not so much because they leave you open to exploitation, but because they're just plain private. However, if you don't take steps to hide your online footsteps, you could be revealing all.

Take medical conditions. The most popular way to check on medical symptoms or to learn more about a particular illness is by using the web. But, having found the information, you don't want other people to know what you've been reading.

Similarly, if you're plotting a surprise getaway for your other half, and researching, planning and booking events online, it's important to keep the details secret.

Many websites attempt to plant cookies on your system when you visit them, enter a username or set a certain preference. These cookies are generally benign in nature - in fact they often significantly improve your browsing experience - but they can betray your every online action to anyone with access to your PC.

Designed to speed up surfing, a cookie cache keeps copies of the text, images and other snippets of code from the web pages you visit. You could learn a lot about someone's surfing habits and interests by trawling through it all - much more, indeed, than by looking at their History list.

Other saved content might include the text of email messages read via webmail. For some time, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari have made it easy for users to dump the cache, but Internet Explorer (IE) 8.0 will be the first version of Microsoft's browser to offer a secure-browsing feature.

This feature, called InPrivate Browsing, is designed to eliminate any traces of your online activities when you shut down the browser.

InPrivate deletes your browsing history, cookies and any Registry traces that would enable your online steps to be retraced.

It doesn't prevent the cache from collecting content, however.

The fix

The best way to truly clean the slate is to prevent your browser from leaving anything on the hard drive. You can achieve this in two ways: instruct the browser to save its cache to a portable drive that you keep plugged in when you use the browser; or use software to wipe the cache after you've finished surfing.

In IE, you can do the former in four easy steps: open the Internet Options control panel, click the Settings button in the ‘Temporary internet files' section, click the Move Folder button and navigate to a folder on your external drive. To wipe the cache, we recommend Eraser, an excellent free tool from heidi.ie/eraser. This securely deletes browser cache files (and other data) by overwriting the files numerous times.

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