Web washers: Programs to cover your online tracks

Published: May. 8, 2012 at 12:26 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2012 at 12:29 PM CDT
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(WMC-TV) - It doesn't take a hacker to see what you have been up to online.

Anyone can search your web history in your web browser.  It's even easier in the search box, because most have an auto-complete feature that fills in the history for you, leading to what can be uncomfortable situations.

"For example, if you are doing a job search on a computer that your boss is going to see later," said Benji Hughes of Memphis.

"You're Googling something like flowers and something completely different pops up, like a porn site or something," said Samantha Stevens of Memphis.

Covering the surface of those tracks is easy and already built in to your computer.

"There are things that are built in to programs like Internet Explorer and the common web browsers that will delete a lot of that information," said Jeff Horton with One Point Solutions Group.

In Internet Explorer, you can wipe away previously visited sites by clicking on "Tools," then "Internet Options," then "Delete Files" and "Clear History."

If you really want to wipe away your online footprint, products called web washers will hit deep into the guts of your computer, where privacy matters most.

"When you delete information from your computer, it's not enough to delete it just once," said Horton.  "If you want to really remove information from your computer, you have to overwrite it several times."

Horton recommended a free program called C-Cleaner, which works for Windows and Mac.  It does not delete the information for good, but it does keep the casual web user from prying eyes.

"It's not the kind of thing where the average Joe would be able to go and run a program and recover the information and put it together," said Horton.  "It takes someone relatively skilled to be able to go in and do that."

To block those skilled snoopers, you will need a web shredder, or a high-powered and more expensive washer that uses more complex methods to permanently delete your history.

Consumer Reports recommends Evidence Eliminator at $135, or White Canyon at a more affordable $50.

Consumer Reports said most of these web washers merely simplify a process that is available through your browser's advanced settings.

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