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A few years ago I started a page on how to tweak the Netscape browser to eliminate personal info leaks from the cache, history file, cookies, etc. Starting today (1/21/2001) I have decided to turn my attention to figuring out, how to secure a Micro$oft browser.

If you are looking for privacy tips using IE and Windoze then you will have to try some other site, but the Phaster Internet Explorer SearchBar is a tool that can help you find whatever you are looking for.

Since I discuss some of the privacy issues and concerns in other sections of what I have discovered about browsing on this site, I do not plan to go into in-depth detail on this page.

Have I lost my mind?

As much as I hate the anti competitive business practices of the Micro$oft, I was sort of curious how my site looked using Explorer 5.0 (IMHO the old version of Netscape which I still use, has a more aesthetic appeal in rendering pages).

Besides I had to see for myself if the hype about Explorer 5.0 was true. Since this page is a work in progress, please check back every once in a while to see if I have discovered new Explorer secrets.

The startup screen

Because my tweaked version of Navigator is secure from personal information data leaks and still gets the job done as far as I am concerned, I have no intention of using Explorer as my default browser (so I made sure to check the Don't show this message again and clicked on the no box, on the startup screen).

Explorer as the default, Never

After explorer started up, I was pleasantly surprised that I could customize the browser tool bars and eliminate both the Favorites Bar and Explorer Bar (found under the view menu) so I could see web pages without a bunch of stuff in the way. It would be nice if my tweaked version of Netscape had easy to configure menu bars.

What I was disappointed about was not being able to select a local page on my hard disk as the default page, using (Edit/Preference/Web Browser/Browser Display/Home Page). My tweaked version of Netscape allows me to easily select a local start up page as my home page.

Basic Security Issues

In general a script language such as Java Script, Java and ActiveX (are harmless tools), but they can and often are used to leak personal information about your computer, besides too often client side scripting is just used for fluff. Therefore I personally made it a point to find out how to turn off any script language in a browser.

To turn off Java Script and ActiveX in Explorer, uncheck the boxes (Edit/Preference/Web Browser/Web Content/Active Content).

To make sure Java is turned off, uncheck the Enable Java box (Edit/Preference/Web Browser/Java/Java Operations).

After testing Explorer with some JavaScript that I have used on my own site, I would have to say that I think the JavaScript on my site works better with Netscape (In other words Explorer BLOWS, that could be because it was optimized for Netscape browser).

The History File

The history file contains information about the sites you have been to. To secure the history file, I tried my old trick of replacing the History.html file which in my case was found in System Folder/Preferences/Explorer with a folder named History.html, but I discovered this simple trick did not work.

It seems if my folder was empty, Explorer replaced my empty History.html folder with a History.html file. To prevent Explorer from replacing my History.html folder, I put a locked or read only file in that folder (in my case I used a small gif, locked it by choosing the gif icon then selecting File/Get Info/ and then checking the “Locked” box, right under the file comments section).

This work around of securing the history of your browser, allows a user to view the history of sites visited while the browser is running, but automatically eliminates the data trail when you shut down.

Cookies

When I started looking for a way to nuke cookies in Internet Explorer, I figured I would start by searching my hard disk for a file called “Cookie” or “cookies.”

What I found was a control panel, in other words if you remove the file “Cookies” from the “Preference Panels” folder you will discover that you cannot access the cookie control panel (Edit/Preferences/Receiving Files/Cookies). I really like the Explorer cookie control panel and I wish my older version of Netscape had this feature.

To delete a specific cookie:

   Select Edit/Preferences/Receiving Files/Cookies

Select the cookie on the right and hit the Delete button

I eventually found that in Explorer 5.0 cookies are kept in the “Internet Preferences” file which also contains the Internet Explorer preferences settings, and file helper settings. Do not delete this file unless you have first written a record of all of these settings.

To keep I.E. from storing cookies:

In the System Folder, open the Preferences folder

Select File/Duplicate then “Internet Preferences” file (this is so you will have a copy just in case)

While you have the “Internet Preferences” file selected, choose File/Get Info then check the “Locked” box

This simple tweak will prevent (as far as I can tell) Internet Explorer from recording cookies from sites you have been to after you shut down your machine. The draw back to this method is you must quit Internet Explorer, change the preference file “Locked” status if you want to change any browser preference.

Secure the Cache

To secure the cache, do a secure delete on the “Cache.waf” file (It is located in the System Folder:Preferences:MS Internet Cache folder).

To simplify the process I decided to make an Alias of “Cache.waf” file, then dragged the Alias into a wipefile program (Internet Explorer re-creates the cache file the next time you start Internet Explorer).

There is one other cache file named “Download Cache” which stores the file names and down load times of any file you get from the internet. Ya may want to erase this file if ya just happen to find an open port and use your browser to down loading files from an A’man (Israeli Military Intelligence) mainframe.

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