Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm your Private Browser...

Last week Microsoft took the wraps off the latest Beta of Internet Explorer 8; and just yesterday Google announced its own browser, currently named "Chrome". Both of these browsers include a feature already found in Apple's Safari by default and available via a variety of add-ons for Mozilla FireFox - "Private Browsing".

Private Browsing, often referred to as 'porn mode', covers the tracks of the user by not saving or instantly deleting browser history, searches, cache, cookies and more. Essentially, these features ensure that whomever uses your PC/Mac next won't be able to see what you were up to online. This is great functionality and a worthwhile addition to all modern browsers.

However, the name "private browsing" could certainly mislead users into thinking that it provides security against spyware, hackers and identity thieves; which is sadly not the case. This feature does not prevent a keylogger from capturing every keystroke, including the URL's you type, usernames, passwords and more. Nor does it prevent a screen-scraping agent from snapping an image of every click and every page you visit. It also provides no protection from man-in-the-middle spying or DNS-poisoning. In short, "private browsing" isn't really private. Sure, it'll keep your spouse from discovering that you were researching a surprise trip, but it won't protect your money, your accounts, or your identity. I've already been asked by 3 relatively computer-literate friends if the "private browsing" mode in Safari means they're safe.

It's becoming increasingly clear that modern browsers need to be fortified against a variety of attacks, and users have recognized that the browser, the web, and email are simultaneously the most important parts of their PC use, and the most dangerous. I sincerely hope that user's aren't lulled into a false sense of security thanks to these new features. Whether you opt to use SafeCentral, or something else, be sure your gaining REAL privacy when you go online.

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