Is Private Browsing Considered Secure?

The Definition of Private Browsing

Private browsing otherwise known as “Privacy mode” or “Incognito” is a feature in most web browsers that disables web cache and browsing history. This allows users to browse the playground of the internet without being able to retrieve their local data at a later point in time. It also means that browsers are not storing data in cookies.

When is Going “Incognito” Useful?

Private browsing is handy for a number of reasons. Usually, authorized users are taking advantage of it to prevent people who have access to their machine from viewing their search history. Here are some ways to utilize private browsing:

  • Blocking sites that you visit from collecting your personal information. Notice that Amazon will show you products based on your search history? Private browsing prevents sites from gathering data based on your searches and cookie information. Sites like Amazon won’t show products based on past purchases. Google will not autofill a search with something you’ve searched for previously.
  • Getting the best price from an online purchase. Browsing on incognito can prevent from online retailers varying prices based on browsing history and location. Booking accommodations such as hotels and airfare are notorious for varying prices, going incognito may help prevent hiked prices based on search history.
  • Logging into multiple accounts on the same site. If you have more than one account for the same site, private browsing allows you to log into multiple accounts at once. This can be especially handy if you have two emails on one site – you would be able to pull them up side by side.
  • Bypass article limits. News and sites filled with articles may have free to read content to a certain extent. Once you reach their free article limit some sites will prompt you to either purchase the article you are reading or a subscription to their site content. Private browsing can bypass this if they are using cookies to remember when you have visited that site before.

Private Browsing Misconceptions

While people who have access to a user’s machine are unable to view search history when browsing privately, there is a common misconception that private browsing will prevent anyone from seeing search activity. Here is some information to take into account when proceeding to search incognito:

  • Private browsing is not a firewall. Whether or not you are choosing to browse publicly or privately, private browsing does not prevent from malware or other attacks such as spyware and key logging.
  • Private browsing doesn’t protect your data on public networks. Private browsing doesn’t stop an unauthorized user from stealing your data on public WiFi. Public WiFi may not be encrypted, or the user may willingly connect to a fake access point, allowing cybercriminals to gain access to the machine without their knowledge.

Some Tips On How to Browse Securely

Private browsing can help in terms of browsing history and preventing certain sites from viewing personal information about you. It can also be utilized if you are concerned about unauthorized users taking advantage of your machine to gain access to your history and online accounts. However, private browsing does not protect your data from cyber theft or other kinds of unwanted snooping.

  • Keep your OS and Firewall Updated: Attackers are more likely to target machines that are outdated, it is critical you keep your operating system up to date as developers are usually patching to cover up vulnerability. If you only have your machines built-in firewall, consider investing in a decent anti-virus program, but don’t forget to update!
  • Practice Safe Browsing Habits: Don’t download anything from a website you are not 100% sure of. A quick tip for downloading something off the internet is to hover your mouse over the download, a link will show up in your browser footer telling you exactly what the file name is.
  • Avoid public WiFi all together: If you choose to use it, then refrain from doing anything involving your personal information and sensitive data, including  accessing your email account.
  • Always Use HTTPS: The “S” stands for secure, the website is using SSL encryption. Using SSL technology ensures all data transmitted on that web server and browser remains encrypted. Check for the padlock icon or “https:” to verify that the site you are viewing is secure.
  • If Available, Use A VPN: VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network,” which is essentially a private solution within a public network. It creates a tunnel to browse in privacy online, which is helpful in preventing attackers from accessing your personal information.

Don’t Confuse Private Browsing with Browsing Securely

The key take away is to remember that private browsing SHOULD NOT be used a safeguard against cyber criminals. While is does prevent sites from seeing your history & cookies, it should not be used a preventive measure against hacking.

Cyber thieves can just as easily steal data while you are browsing privately. They can gain access to your machine in various ways to get ahold of your personal information.  Personal information can include: account names & passwords, information regarding finances & credit card information. It is important to differentiate between using a private browser and browsing securely.

For more information about VPN and safe browsing habits, please feel free to contact CompuOne at 858-404-7000 or send us an email at

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