There are several types of computer privacy software, much of it designed to stop Internet servers or viruses from tracking information about a user while online. A common category of software, known as anonymous browsing software, hides the actual computer address and other information about a user and the computer being used. Another is known as an Internet protocol (IP) blocker, and it allows specific websites or addresses to be ignored so information cannot be sent or received from it. Encryption software can protect the content of files or Internet messages so anyone intercepting the message will be unable to decipher it. Finally, there is software designed to remove information from a computer that could reveal personal information, browsing habits or passwords in case a hard drive is compromised.
Anonymous browsing is achieved through computer privacy software that uses proxy servers and other methods to actually hide the true identity of a user and to keep the location and IP address of a computer hidden. This can help to prevent tracking cookies, viruses and malicious software from being able to target a user for data theft or information harvesting. It also can prevent attacks on a computer or network. A potential problem with using anonymous browsing software is that some websites, especially e-commerce sites and sites requiring a specific user login, might themselves block access to users without a valid, non-proxy IP address.
IP blocking software grants the ability to define a specific website or sequence of sites so information will not be received or transmitted between it and the user’s computer. By using IP blocking computer privacy software, the websites that are used to cull information from a user can be blocked while a larger website is still allowed to function properly. Programs such as advertising blockers for web browsers sometimes employ this type of protection.
Computer privacy software that performs encryption is more complex than the other types because it requires more than one user to have the program installed. This software will take blocks of text, files or images and use strong encryption algorithms to obfuscate the data, making it impossible to read without a password or encryption key. This maintains privacy by preventing any malicious hackers between the source and destination from being able to causally read emails passing through unsecured servers.
Some computer privacy software is built directly into web browsers and operating systems, as well as being available as standalone programs. These are the type that can erase evidence of online browsing habits, information and passwords from a local hard drive. This information, even if not specifically saved by the user, can be available in a system or browser cache, or in cookies downloaded from websites. Regularly erasing this information can help to maintain a clean system that protects a user’s privacy.
Finally, the last line of defense in computer privacy software is virus and malware scanners. These are programs that can go through all of the files on a computer system, locating and removing malicious programs that could be doing anything from logging keystrokes to redirecting web searches. Although new computer viruses are being created every day, many of the older viruses are still active on the web and can sometimes be hidden in an otherwise benign download.