Welcome, CBC Radio
Are you thinking of taking your laptop
border with you?
interview with Vlad Mayzel on CBC Radio (690am) on Nov 7, 2006.
Your computer may hold illegal information you never knew
you had. To make your trip easier when you cross the border, you may want to
check your laptop before the trip as security is increased and customs
officers may be on the lookout for illegal content.
How can it get on your computer?
- Legitimate web sites may sell some of their space to
advertisers they do not know. Browsing such sites or clicking advertising
links may get illegal content on your computer.
- If your computer is infected with viruses it may become a
zombie and act as a server for hackers who may upload and download files
using your computer as illegal swap storage.
- If your computer is infected with spyware or adware it
will force illegal content on your computer.
- If you use file sharing programs and download free music,
some of these programs pose a security threat or may let you download an
infected file that you may think is a music file.
- How to know if your computer is infected? You may want to
read about common symptoms here:
Where does it hide?
- Every time you view any page it is stored along with all
the images on it in your browser’s cache
- When you visit web sites most of them leave cookies on
your computer that are usually harmless but may implicate you if you were
visiting illegal web sites
- Browser keeps a history of which page you visited and when
- Your computer collects information about every search
query that you type
- If you use the auto-complete feature to fill out forms for
you, all this information is also stored on your computer
- Windows has lots of places where it keeps temporary files
- Windows keeps a list of recently opened files
- After you delete a file it does not disappear forever, it
first goes to the recycle bin which is very easily accessible. Even after
you remove a file from the recycle bin, traces are left on the hard drive
and many files can be recovered (that is how we do data recovery by the
- After all you may have looked at something and saved it in
a folder you do not remember anymore
How to clean it up?
- Windows XP has a built in clean manager that can clean the
recycle bin and many temporary files. You can click on Start, then RUN,
then type CleanMGR and ENTER.
- “Internet Explorer 6” has several places where you can
clean cache, history, cookies and so on. In “Internet Explorer 7” it is
much easier, it is in one place under Tools / ”Delete browsing History…” In Firefox it all can be done instantly by a keyboard shortcut or in
Tools / ”Clear Private Data”
- You will be surprised at how many files you may find about
any subject that you never thought you had on your computer. You can
download an excellent free tool called “Google Desktop” and you can search
files, contacts, e-mails, chat history, tasks (pretty much anything) on
your own computer as if you were searching the internet using Google. You
may find locations of long forgotten files.
- You can find many good free or inexpensive third party
tools that can erase unwanted history. For example search for just one
word “History” on the Download.com web site. Pick those that have the best
CNET editors reviews, best user ratings and the maximum number of
Have a safe and enjoyable trip!
* * *
This information is prepared for CBC Radio
by Vlad Mayzel, who is a president of
On-Site Computer Services
He can be reached at 604-GET-HELP (604-438-4357)