There is one thing we usually don’t pay attention to while we surf the Web. What is it? The content that is hidden in our browser history. We usually don’t pay attention to this because all we care about is that our Web experience is the best it can be, but haven’t you, at least, wondered what it contains?
In your browser history, you are going to find information such as:
- Browsing & 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.
- Site Preferences – These are the preferences that you have saved on a site such as zoom levels, site permissions, and character encoding.
- Active logins – 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 where you are the only user, then you might not be too interested in erasing your browsing history since you are the only one that has access to the computer. But, what if you have used a public computer or one that you share with others? In that case erasing your browsing history would be a good idea because your information could fall into the wrong hands.
What You’re Revealing by Not Clearing Your Browsing History
You might be thinking, “What harm can someone do to me by having my browsing history?” They might 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 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.
When I re-visited a site and clicked on Email, it automatically showed the Email I had previously used to access that site. If that happened to me on my 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 site A, and then you reveal your mother’s maiden name on site B, and finally you enter your address on site C. By leaving these bits and pieces of information on different sites and in your browsing history, they can be used to hack things by guessing your password because you’re leaving a trail.
If this information falls into the wrong hands, your privacy could 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 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 protect yourself by blocking or deleting third-party cookies. This can stop certain types of tracking, but not all. Using software’s such as CCleaner can help clear regular cookies and Flash.
We are always trying to find ways to protect ourselves, but unfortunately dishonest people are also trying to find ways to get past our protections. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to keep our information safe. Do you regularly delete your browsing history? Let us know in the comments.