Google Desktop Search and Public Computers
Technology is making it lot harder to maintain our privacy online. In addition, newer tools are making it even more complicated. If keeping our own personal machines safe from spyware and adware was complicated, think about the security hazard of surfing on public machines like at Cyber CafÃ© and Libraries?
We all loved Google Desktop Search. A few raised issues related to lack of privacy offered by it. However, I do not mind using it on my personal machine considering I take care of keeping my profile password protected. Most users do not. Most even do not use tools like Firewalls to keep external attacks at bay. Tests have proved that if someone gets hold of your Google Desktop Search Cache, they can use it to search content on your machine on their own! Google certainly need to do something on this front. Of course, if they managed to get hold of your cache in he first place you are already in big trouble.
Another interesting point some analyst made on Search Engine Journal has made me believe, surfing on public computers is no longer safe. And you should avoid it at any cost. If Keyloggers were not enough to tap your userids and passwords, now we have tools like Google Desktop Search to worry about. It keeps record of browsing sessions in internet explorer, which means any page surfed on IE is cached and that includes online mail services. It even has an option to cache secure pages. Currently only AOL Chat sessions are tracked; future can bring in more powerful features. In the end, for someone who has no idea that their sessions are being tracked it poses a lot more trouble than originally assumed.
OK, there is an icon flashing in the system tray informing me that Google Desktop Search is running. Nevertheless, it can be hidden using tools available online. The search results can be hidden from appearing in normal Google searches so a normal search on Google will not reveal that Google Desktop Search is running in the background. Moreover, if network administrators can find a way to hide the processes from the task manager or disable user privileges from viewing Windows Task Manager, it all results in a potential security hazard.
Call me cynical, but I am not planning to use public computers for checking personal mails until it is absolutely necessary.