The proliferation of lightweight laptops and handheld devices has made browsing the web easier than ever. You can take a seat in the lobby of your hotel and check email while you wait for your room to be ready. You can get some work done in the local coffee shop while you sip your morning latte.
What happens, however, when you step away to grab a quick bite or talk to the hotel clerk? You could take your laptop with you, but chances are you will just leave it there for a few minutes. That means a snoop could check out what you have been doing while your back is turned, and you would never be the wiser.
You may think that you have nothing to hide, and nothing to worry about. Keep in mind, however, that your browser harbors a host of private information, from a detailed list of the sites you just visited to the passwords for your online banking activity.
The good news is you can keep your web browsing somewhat anonymous. You may not be able to foil the NSA or stop a dedicated hacker, but you can hide your browsing history – and your passwords – from passing snoops.
All of the major web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari, have settings for private browsing. When you activate those settings, the web browser will ignore all cookies, including the ad-tracking cookies that report back to businesses and can compromise your securities.
Activating private browsing mode also means the browser will not record your browsing history. That can be a big boon, especially if you are using your computer in a public place like a hotel lobby or coffee shop. There is nothing to stop a snoop from checking out your open laptop when you step away to refill your cup or check on your room. Removing the browser history setting can foil those casual snoops and preserve your privacy.
The process for instituting private browsing could not be easier. In fact, it takes only a few keystrokes, making it easy to turn private browsing on and off as you need to. All you need to do is hold the CTRL and SHIFT key down and press the P key. This key combination will do the trick on every browser except Chrome. In Chrome the key combo is CTRL+SHIFT+N. If you have a Mac, you can start browsing privately by holding down CTRL+OPTION+P. If you have Chrome on your Mac, you will use CTRL+OPTION+N.
Once you institute private browsing, you will see a special icon on the screen. Firefox will display a mask, Chrome will display a tiny spy and Internet Explorer will display an “InPrivate” message. Make sure you see the appropriate icon before you resume your browsing.
This simple process will keep the eyes of casual snoops off your laptop. It may not stop a dedicated snoop, since the browser cache may still retain certain images and codes from the sites you visit. You can use a special program like CCleaner to remove this information as well, but if all you want to do is get a bit of privacy, the private browsing option will do what you need.