Leave No Trace: How To Truly Browse the Web in Private

By Matthew Braga

Turns out Incognito isn't as private as you think — and that goes for Firefox, Safari and IE too.

When private browsing was finally introduced into Google Chrome, many users lauded the feature for allowing them " to plan surprises like gifts or birthdays." Before, it was all too likely that a snooping boss or spouse could uncover a user's secret plans, and it was clear that Google had to do something about it. And do something they did. For party planners and secret shoppers everywhere, Incognito mode was the answer.

Or so users thought. As it soon turned out, Incognito wasn't as private as they had been led to believe — and Chrome wasn't the only browser either. Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer were found to be susceptible as well, putting party planning aficionados everywhere on watch.

really keeping your browsing habits secure.

 Could apps like Slideshow reveal your secret purchases? We doubt it. But you never know.  
love extensions. They can do a lot to improve the overall look and feel of your browser, but according to researchers at Stanford University's Computer Science Security Lab, they can also be a very dangerous vector of attack for potential wrongdoers. 

Private browsing implementations aren't standardized between browsers, nor are the extensions that go with them. The study found that, in most cases, extensions aren't subject to the same rules as the rest of the browser when used privately, and that many top extensions still stored persistent data to disk that could be later accessed. The solution? If you're truly looking to hide your afternoon webcomic binge, turn off your extensions first. 

Trolololololololo.com might be my homepage. 
Adobe's storage settings panel, and delete all listings from there. Or, you can get with the times and upgrade to a more modern release to stop the problem one and for all.

Finally, Lifehacker points out that it's not just your browser you have to worry about, but the path all those packets take as they're sent from your browser. IP addresses for common websites are fetched from a DNS server and cached locally for faster access — a practice that still continues after you've gone private. There's no real way to turn this functionality off — it's baked right into Windows, Mac and Linux after all — but there is a way to remove your history.

ipconfig /displaydns" from the command line to see what sites have been stored, and "ipconfig /flushdns" to clean them out. Mac users, meanwhile, simply need to invoke "dscacheutil -flushcache" from Terminal to return everything back to normal. If all goes well, you'll likely never have a surprise party of gift purchase spoiled again.