PC Privacy Myths

Have you fallen prey to common PC privacy myths? Check and see.

Even this deep into the Information Age, most people are still plagued by certain PC privacy myths. For example: if you think deleting a file erases it from your computer, then you’ve fallen for one of the most prevalent myths. As any hacker could tell you, a file remains in memory, somewhere, until it’s actively overwritten.

Even then, it may still be recoverable. Back in the old days, if you wanted to be rid of a document, you could tear it up and burn it, and it would be gone for good. With computers, a document might linger, at least in fragmentary form, for years…and that’s the least of your PC privacy worries.

Open, sesame!

Take passwords, for example. One of the most common PC privacy myths is that a good password will effectively protect your files. Nope. While a password might be proof against your teenager’s snooping, if your computer’s ever stolen, the thief can bypass your password in minutes, no matter how counterintuitive it is.

How? Simply by resetting a jumper on the motherboard. Admittedly, it takes a little “inside” knowledge, but hackers are clever. All they have to do is crack the case, make an adjustment, and reboot the system — and all your data is theirs for the taking once the computer restarts.

Don’t know much about history?

If you want to keep your devotion to Rachel Ray recipes and 19th century doilies a secret, you’ve probably learned how to clear the history and cache on your web browser. However, it’s just another PC privacy myth to assume that this gets rid of all clues to your web travels.

There will always be cookies, backups, remnants, and temporary and hidden files left scattered across your system, and so a canny hacker may be able to piece together where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. If they’re going that far, you can rest assured that they’re looking to take advantage of you in some way.

You can’t even assume that a full reformatting of your hard drive will wipe out all sensitive information (as various private companies, and even the government and military, have learned to their chagrin). Contrary to PC privacy myth, a reformat leaves most data intact and accessible to inexpensive unformat utilities.

By the way, don’t expect Windows to come with any utilities to help you protect your privacy in this way. You’ll have to settle for third party programs, which vary in their utility and effectiveness — and tend to be expensive, to boot.

The Right to Privacy

There are those who would argue that if you’re worried about PC privacy myths like the ones outlined in this article, then you’re probably a disgusting pervert doing the kinds of things that a nice person shouldn’t to be doing anyhow. We beg to differ; these warnings are legit in a variety of situations.

For example, PC privacy is paramount in some governmental, military and business environments. And even if you’re working on your home computer, do you really want everyone in the house knowing you’ve been shopping online for hemorrhoid cream? No. No, you do not.

There’s no 100% solution to PC privacy, but you should always take at least a few measures to protect your data. Just keep this in mind: all the common remedies will work fine against casual intruders — but if you believe they’ll work against all comers, you’ve fallen for the PC privacy myths in a bad way.