Home computers are often used by multiple family members. It is convenient for us to operate out of a single PC by adding different users, but more often than not, all users are given administrator status.
Multiple users lead to multiple browser caches and browsing histories, which are all stored on the computer’s hard drive. It is pretty easy to retrieve this information, and is often used by several family members to snoop into the privacy of other users. So, how do you protect your privacy if you are using a home computer?
Step 1: Using Cleanup Applications
Online browsing will leave traces in the form of stored web caches, auto-complete data, temp files, cookies and downloads. All information is automatically stored on the hard drive, and in web browsers such as Chrome, the amount of stored data can run up to GBs of storage space.
Invest in a desktop cleanup application or you can choose free applications such as Registry Cleaner, CCleaner or Wise Registry Cleaner. A free cleanup application can help you delete all browsing data, and can also clean up your registry. The advantage of such application is two-fold. For one, you can eradicate all browser oriented data from your system, and secondly, regular cleanup of your system will improve the overall performance of your system (speed, disk space and system resources) and help maintain your PC in a better way. Just make sure that you run the application after every user session.
The problem with free cleanup applications is that they are always associated with freeware or upselling advertisements. You will be prompted numerous times to update to a paid version or to click through advertisements for subscribing to any one of the supporting sponsors. While it is not essential for you to subscribe to these endorsements for using the free program, these upselling adverts or self-installed toolbars are cumbersome, and can use up system resources, and in some cases, they may also contain malware.
Step 2: Using Browser Add-ons
Traditionally, browser add-ons like HideMyAss! Free Web Proxy Browser Extensions and built-in settings were used to avoid any storage of browsing data into the hard drive. It is possible for you to edit the settings to prevent any kind of cookie storage. However, most websites don’t function properly without the cookies activated.
This is why modern day browsers come with a ‘porn mode’. These are just in-built versions that act as virtual browsers that prevent permanent storage of any data or cache. In the Google Chrome web browser, this mode is known as the ‘InCognito Mode’, while the Internet Explorer and Firefox have modes known as ‘InPrivate Browsing’ and ‘Private Browsing’ respectively.
These modes will work like a normal web browser, but once the user terminates a session, it automatically deletes all the cached data stored in the memory, and there won’t be any trace of the web history available on the user’s hard drive.
Step 3: Using Proxy Services
There are ways to prevent any privacy issues at the desktop level, but once you move online, you are not protected, and your online identity is visible to the entire world. Every activity that you perform online can be traced back to your IP address. This is where you can use IP hiding technologies to hide your IP address, and one such way of hiding your IP address is by using a proxy service. There are both free proxy services as well as paid ones, but these services do not offer any form of encryption or security, and all they do is let you hide behind a virtual IP address.
Proxy services are limited in their functionalities, and users can’t enjoy much in terms of speed or reliability. Video streaming and fast downloads are virtually impossible with proxy services. Also, connecting to a proxy services means that only the target URL will see your virtual IP address, all the while, allowing your ISP and other prying agencies to clearly see every action that you perform online.
Step 4: Using Full Feature VPN Services
Full featured, premium VPN services on the other hand, allows you the flexibility of choosing from different encryption protocols and a lot of VPN related features such as changing IP addresses, choosing a different physical location, encrypting data and data protection. Online anonymity is a key feature of VPN services, and using a VPN service will help you remain anonymous and protect your data from prying eyes.
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and uses numerous encryption protocols and servers throughout the world to offer unmatched internet privacy to the user. Unlike proxy services, all information and browsing data is properly encrypted before being transmitted through the online channel. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you are using a public network such as Wi-Fi hotspot, all data is properly encrypted so as to prevent any instances of data theft or intrusion into privacy. Therefore, even your ISP is clueless when it comes to your online browsing behavior.
Step 5: Drawing A Boundary & Setting Standards
Finally, your privacy is indeed in your own hands. If you use a single PC in your home for multiple users, make sure that you set the standards, and specifically earmark the type of users according to their usage. For instance, you only need one administrator account for your PC, and all the other users can have regular standard accounts. Set permissions to files and folders, and protect those hard drive partitions that you fear will be subjected to data snooping or invasion into privacy.
Make use of the tools available to you and delete all of your browsing data at the end of each session. Store your passwords and other sensitive financial information at a safe place where you feel comfortable. As a final thought, don’t share anything that you don’t want to be discovered.