Thursday, September 4, 2008

When is Privacy Private on Your Computer?

GFP Note: Privacy, or the lack thereof, is a big issue in today's world. "Private browsing" only assists privacy on one computer. Read and take heed.

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Microsoft announced last week that the upcoming Internet Explorer 8 would include the rumored “private browsing” mode, designed to conceal a user’s activities from other users of the same PC. A privacy mode is already a feature of Apple’s Safari browser, and a similar technology is available in Mozilla’s Firefox, as well as the newly announced Google Chrome. Private browsing mode utilizes techniques that automatically delete search history, page cache, and browsing history so the next user can’t see where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to.

Unfortunately, this mode does nothing to provide real privacy from hackers, spyware, and network-based attacks that pose significant and growing threats to users’ finances and identities.

“The private browsing mode avoids embarrassment, and prevents your spouse from learning about the surprise gift you’re researching for them,” says Ray Dickenson, Authentium’s CTO. “But it doesn’t prevent the disclosure of your usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information to criminals. While we applaud the feature as a valuable tool for users, we’re concerned the name will only exacerbate the current explosion of digitally cultivated identity theft by fooling users into thinking they’re protected.”

Authentium, maker of the leading secure browsing companion SafeCentral, cautions users not to trust these privacy features as a means of protection from fraud.

“Whether using Safari, Firefox, or the upcoming Internet Explorer 8, users need to be aware that the private browsing mode is for local protection only, and is not a deterrent against identity theft,” says Corey O’Donnell, Vice President of Marketing for Authentium. “While I can’t suggest a better name, we’re certainly concerned that the private browsing moniker will give users a false sense of security and put them at increased risk when conducting transactions online. Independent of our goals and mission of providing advanced protection with our SafeCentral service, we feel it’s important to alert the public about the actual functions of this feature.”

Authentium issued the warning in conjunction with the recent announcement and posted notifications to its antivirus customers and security partners via the corporate blog. Authentium is attempting to ensure that the security community, including its roster of high-profile partners, was prepared to respond to customer inquiry on the feature.

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