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The majority of people who just use the internet every day for browsing, shopping and entertainment probably imagine that they have quite a decent level of privacy by default. They probably expect that there browsing is private, passwords are secure and emails confidential at least to a certain extent. Unfortunately the reality is a completely different story.
The problem is that people are blissfully unaware of simply how much of their online lives is completely open and unprotected. Take for example your computer or laptop, most people’s are stuffed with all sorts of web browsing history, passwords, login details and a host of other stuff often going back years.
So here’s something to try if you’ve got a spare few minutes – download this free computer forensics tool – here.
It’s called Systems Information for Windows and is a pretty advanced tool for scanning your computer and analysing detailed information about it. It takes minutes to run and in fact doesn’t even need installing as it runs from a stand alone executable.
Here’s a screen shot that it picked up from my laptop. Although obviously I needed to censor it – every single line in that picture contains a website I accessed and the password I used to access the site. SIW picked up hundreds of these all stuffed with personal details, login accounts and even the passwords I used to access.
Try it on your laptop and PC – you’ll be amazed at what information can be picked up from your computer.
Here’s a selection of the sort of passwords and login details it can pick up –
- Screen Saver Passwords
- Windows Logons
- RAS Passwords (Remote access and Dial UP for your ISP)
- Outlook (Email accounts)
- Firefox, Chrome and IE passwords
- MSN and Messenger Passwords
- Wireless Keys (WPA, WEP, WPSK, SSID)
- FTP Login Details
That’s only a sample, all stored on your local machine – all easily accessible to anyone with access to the computer either physically or remotely.
I urge you to take a look and see how much of that information you are potentially leaking to the world. Most people will see lots of details and passwords that they would consider private.
Also remember this is the free version of the software – there are plenty of professional tools floating around the internet used by hackers and forensic scientists that can pick up much much more.
What sort of problems could this cause you if the information fell into the wrong hands – perhaps an identity thief or hacker. Perhaps run from a virus or when you accessed free Wifi from that cafe last week. Email passwords, Paypal, Ebay or banking details can be used very easily to steal and defraud.
Even if a sensitive website doesn’t appear in the list – how many of us use the same password for our online banking or Paypal that appears in the list?
There are privacy modes in most modern browsers that stop this information leaking out, security programs like IDC or Smart DNS – keep your connection secure and free programs like CCleaner can be used to tidy up your computer to start with. Ultimately knowledge and some awareness of the (lack of) privacy situation online is your best defence – a little paranoia is definitely called for when you surf the web!