Protect Your Privacy, Delete Internet Usage Tracks

John P.

CleaningHere’s a question I received from a reader:

Can you recommend a good hard drive sweeper? I need to clean up my PC at work… been surfing the net a little too much.

Well yes. Yes I can…

There are lots of good reasons to clean up your computer’s hard drive and usage tracks:

  • If a hacker ever gained access to your machine, some of your juiciest information is stored in your Web browsers cache. There is enough in almost every browser on earth to engineer a social breach. In other words a hacker could gain access to your personal data and then use it to pose as you.
  • You may be working in an environment where your boss frowns on Internet use, even though it actually helps you do your job. In these cases you need to clean up after yourself because any third grader can see what you’ve been doing the moment you log off the machine.
  • Finally, you might be doing something morally or ethically “challenged”. Need I say more?

If someone was going to do a forensic analysis of your machine to determine what you’ve been up to, you can bet they are going to start with the following areas:

  • Temporary Internet files, Web site cookies, browser history, and index.dat
  • Typed URL history
  • Saved passwords and form auto-complete information stored in your browser
  • Recent Documents
  • Usage history of: Start/Run, Search
  • Temporary directories on the hard drive
  • Items contained within the Windows Registry
  • Deleted items contents
  • Media player history

And that’s not all… So you can see how it would be difficult to keep all of your private information protected, given that it’s scattered all over your machine in places you’ve never even heard of.

Here’s what you can do about it. First, use one (or more) of the following tools to automatically erase all of the things on the list above. And by the way, all three of these offer Secure File Deletion, which makes the deletions unrecoverable:

  1. Clean Cache – Looks like this domain is gone. Thanks to John Williams for catching this for me!
  2. CCleaner
  3. Privacy Eraser

After you delete all of that stuff, you’re going to notice that Web sites which you used to go that recognized you don’t anymore. This is because the cookies have been deleted. Also, any of your saved passwords are gone, and that might make things a little less convenient. Don’t worry… you didn’t think I would leave you inconvenienced did you?

Now what you need in order to have a safe, secure and pleasant browsing experience is RoboForm. This is a little program which builds itself into Internet Explorer, Avant Browser or Firefox and which saves all of your login data to your favorite sites, but does so in an encrypted format so it can’t be snooped!

You can read more about RoboForm on my previous post about protecting your digital secrets. If you have an iPhone or Android device it will even sync all of your data to it so you can take it all with you everywhere you go. If you’d like to download it without having to navigate their web site here is the direct download link for Windows.

You should also review my article entitled How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords.

Be safe.


  1. miam says

    Did you notice that the truth was revealed in the last post from John re Gravatar? He personally knows the exec at the company that owns Gravatar. Clearly he is promoting it as a favor to his bud and not giving Gravatar the scrutiny that it clearly should have. Many thanks to Tobias and Al for exposing the unseemly nature of Gravatar. Shame on John for selling out his credibility for his bud.

    • says

      You are a complete and utter idiot.

      a.) I haven’t “promoted” Gravatar. Ever. But yes, I use it like about a million other people.

      b.) See a.


  2. TSmith says

    Hey John,
    I guess you couldn’t answer Tobias Weisserth last post about the gravatar issue huh? Yha gotta admit he’s right.

  3. Prisca says

    The information provided about deleting everything would actually be great for those getting rid of their computer, which I am currently doing.

    Thanks for that info, because I definitely do not want the buyer to have my info!

  4. Mike says

    all sounds well and good, but nothing is ever truly gone. encrypted or not deleted or not, forensic software can still read the drive

  5. Kitty says

    Personally I use Sandboxie for protecting such things. Basically what it does is creates an area where it saves everything you do and say you open firefox, it copies everything firefox needs to run in that area and opens it(Surprisingly even though I get like 4000 files in my Sandbox a week I don’t notice a speed drop ever). This also means that when you get a virus it throws copies of your windows files at it long enough for you to delete it so you computer is safe. But it also saves all your cookies and things(Even favorites/bookmarks) into this little box until you tell it to actually save them to your computer. You delete everything in the sandbox and your computer remembers nothing of what you did(You just have all the things you told it to recover such as images and video files). The only downside is I find myself rebookmarking everything I bookmarked in the real firefox since it doesn’t remember I even did it. But I have yet to have a virus run all over the place and now even when friends come over they don’t have to see my history. This doesn’t mean though that I don’t have several passwords though plus a virus scanner and a spyware remover, since I have all of the above. Actually ever since I started using Sandboxie my computer has been alot safer and been running alot better than it did without it. So maybe it might help other people who want to give it a shot? I found it very easy to use so hopefully other people will as well.

  6. Freakedout! says

    I have a question that doesn’t appear anywhere when I search for it. My cat (true!!) accidentally hit the F12 key while I was on Facebook and a ‘Developer’s Tools’ page popped up on a ‘friend’s’ page whom I suspected had hacked into my emails … There were tons of tabs at the top (HTML, View, Photos, etc.) and there was a tab at the top that said “Script”. When I hit that – tons of activity for was on it – I skimmed the page and my emails were on there verbatim! I tested it out on another friend’s page and her password was on there! I wrote to her to affirm that this was her password – and she said yes! This is scary because the information is so easily accessed if you know what keys to use!
    My questions are: 1. Does anyone know more about this? 2. Is the script on there for the OTHER user’s activity (it says their name at the top) or is it MY activity on THEIR page because I am logged in. Thanks for any help with this!

  7. Ellen says

    I am wondering if you can recommend any great sweepers for Mac OSX? I am concerned that I’m not keeping up with clearing out all the files that should be cleared.

    Thanks so much,

  8. Victoria says

    I would also like to know Automatic’s response to the Gravatar query. I feel that at the very least some kind of authentication should be used before people’s pictures are attached to what could be a malicious party’s words. Perhaps it wouldn’t happen very often, as another commenter has observed, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok.

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