Don't leave your PC exposed and vulnerable, protect it instead with these 15 free products that will save you from malicious software and eavesdroppers.
Cleaning your traces
As you surf, your web browser leaves traces of your travels on your PC. Websites can look into some of those traces. And if other people use your PC, they can easily look at those traces as well. Luckily, there are tools that can get rid of the tracks you leave behind.
Another privacy problem relates to Microsoft Office documents containing private information (unbeknownst to the sender) that get sent out via email. A download helps here, too, removing information that you don't want made public from the Office documents where it appears.
Free Internet Window Washer
Worried that websites may snoop on your internet activities, or that someone else who uses your PC can see where you've been and what you've done? If so, you need an internet washer, a tool that will delete your Internet Explorer browsing history, recently typed URLs, browsing history, and so on.
That's what Free Internet Window Washer does - for free. Click Wash Settings, then click Browsers, and then select what you want the program to clean. Back on the main screen, click Wash Now and the program will remove everything you've asked it to. If you prefer, click Test Now to see a preview of what the program will do.
Besides cleaning Internet Explorer, Free Internet Window Washer also cleans traces from instant messengers, including AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger. It also cleans traces from a wide array of other programs, including Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat.
Here's another great tool for cleaning up all traces of your internet activities. CCleaner cleans Internet Explorer and Firefox, of course, but also Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash Player, Google Toolbar, and Windows Media Player. It even picks up after major applications such as Microsoft Office, and it includes a Registry cleaner and an uninstaller.
A lesser-known privacy problem may be among the most dangerous: hidden information in Microsoft Office documents that becomes exposed after the documents are made public.
This problem has struck some of the best-know enterprises in the world. In 2006, for example, Google publicly posted a PowerPoint presentation that contained notes disclosing highly sensitive financial projections to the world. Even worse, in 2003, Alistair Campbell, top communications aide to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, released a Word document whose hidden information revealed that the British government had used plagiarised documents to justify its involvement in the Iraq war.
Google and Blair found out the hard way that Office documents contain lots of private information that the sender might prefer that the world not see, such as hidden text, names of author documents, revision history, markup, hidden cells, and hidden spreadsheets. When such information hitchhikes along with the visible text of a document, people can find it without much effort.
What to do? Get SendShield, an excellent, well-designed freebie. Whenever you send a Microsoft Office document via Outlook, SendShield looks inside the document for private information--and shows you what it finds. You can then delete all of the information if you wish. The deletion affects only the copy of the document you send; the original file remains intact on your PC.
NEXT PAGE: Rootkit and malware killers