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Computer Safety Procedures

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Cache and History Cleaning and Erasing Cookies

The following are step-by-step directions on how to protect your privacy, by cleaning the cache and history and erasing the cookies on your computer, so that others are not able to go onto your computer and check up on what you have been doing. The directions are operating system- and browser-specific, so make sure to pay attention to the relevant information for your computer.

For more information on computer safety, read RAINN's newsletter for January 2008 Stalking Awareness Month.

Important Note

If you have any reason to suspect that someone may be tracking your computer usage, please think carefully about whether or not you will want to complete these privacy steps. If someone is tracking your computer usage, they may grow suspicious if all records of internet activity disappear.

What is Cache?

The cache is an area of the hard disc where web pages are stored when a page is downloaded from the internet. It allows for recently viewed pages to be viewed more rapidly or even offline.

What is History?

A list of the different URLs (or websites) you have visited. This is what fills in the URL line for you when you are returning to a website you have visited before.

To see your history on a Mac, type Apple + H.
To see your history on a PC, type Control + H.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are storage files that collect personal information that you have provided to particular vendors on the internet (e.g., your name, address, phone number, things you have ordered, etc.). Only information you have provided is stored, and cookies are used to speed up the interactive process when you are online with a vendor. For instance, when you go to, you may notice that the advertisements seem to be relevant to your interests; that is because your reading and music preferences are stored in cookies, so that the web page can advertise specific deals that fit your taste.

Clearing the Cache and History

Firefox for the MAC

Clearing the Cache

  1. Click on Firefox from the top menu.
  2. Under Firefox, click on Preferences.
  3. Click on Privacy.
  4. Click on the tab labeled Cache.
  5. Click on Clear Cache Now button.

Clearing the History

  1. Click on Firefox from the top menu.
  2. Under Firefox, click on Preferences.
  3. Click on the Privacy icon.
  4. Click on the tab labeled History.
  5. Click on Clear Browsing History Now button.

Erasing Cookies

  1. Click on Firefox from the top menu.
  2. Under Firefox, click on Preferences.
  3. Click on Privacy icon.
  4. Click on the tab labeled Cookies.
  5. Click on Clear Cookies Now button.

Firefox for the PC

  1. Select Tools from the top menu, and Options from the drop down list.
  2. Click on the Privacy button in the left menu.
  3. To clear the list of sites that you have visited, select History and then click the Clear button.
  4. To clear your Cookies and Cache from the Privacy list, select both and then click the Clear button.

Internet Explorer 6.0 for the PC:

Clear the Cache

  1. Select Tools from the top menu, and click Internet Options.
  2. On the Internet Options window, click the Delete Files... button.
  3. If you are prompted for confirmation, click OK.

Erasing Cookies:

  1. After clearing your cache you can continue on to erase your cookies.
  2. On the Internet Options window, click Delete Cookies... button.
  3. If you are prompted for confirmation, click OK.
  4. Click OK to return to Internet Explorer.

Clear the History:

  1. Select Tools from the top menu, and click Internet Options.
  2. Click on the Clear History button.
  3. When you have completed the changes you wish to make, click OK.

Further Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself

Updating Windows:

If you use a Windows operating system, you may want to make sure that your Windows version is as up-to-date as possible. For information on how to do this go to Use Microsoft Update to Help Keep Your Computer Content.

Protecting Yourself from Viruses and Spyware:
If you don't already use up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs in order to keep your computer safer, we recommend that you either buy or download a free program that will help to protect you and your computer.

In order to facilitate your obtaining such programs, we have provided you with links that will direct you to both paid and free anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.

Paid Software:

Top Ten Anti-Virus Programs
Top Ten Anti-Spyware Programs

Free Software:

Google Pack
Freebyte's Guide to Free Anti-Virus Software
Tech Support Alert's List of the 46 Best Freeware Utilities
The Anti-Spyware Guide (has links to both free and paid programs)

Protecting Yourself from Keystroke Logging:

Keystroke logging is when someone has installed hardware or software onto your computer that tracks all typing that you do. This means that they can trace everything you do on your computer, from what you type, to tracking down usernames and passwords. For obvious reasons, this is a dangerous and aggressive form of tracking, and can be a difficult thing to trace. For more information on how to see if you have keystroke logging, and what possible options are for removal, visit the following article: Privacy Watch: Don't Let Anyone Secretly Track Your Keystrokes

Google Desktop Search

Google Desktop Search is a popular tool that mimics the Google website search techniques on your personal computer, so that you can search for files in your computer in a new and faster way. While this may be a nice feature, and you may enjoy using it, it also poses a security threat, in that it can then save login names and passwords, save the webpages you go to (i.e., the Online Hotline), and store information that you access from the Online Hotline.

Therefore, we suggest that if you have Google Desktop Search on your computer, you disable it before using the Online Hotline, so as to protect your private information.

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